This is not the first time suspected Afzal Usmani has managed an escape. In 2008, the 38-year-old IM man had fooled two police officials escorting him to an interrogation session by saying his car had broken down. He asked the policemen to help him push the car, and fled when they got off the vehicle, said police officials.
He was later arrested from Uttar Pradesh after a tedious and time-consuming hunt in September that year. Usmani’s arrest was crucial as it had led the Mumbai crime branch to arrest 21 Indian Mujahideen operatives from Maharashtra and Karnataka.
While Usmani’s recent escape won’t have any serious implications on any of the terror cases, it is a cause of worry for counter-terrorist units across many states, said police sources.
A resident of Shivaji Nagar in Mumbai, Usmani had graduated from being a car thief to a mid-level organised crime figure after he became a trusted lieutenant of mafia don Aftab Ansari — who played a key role in the formation of the homegrown terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen.
Usmani, who had moved from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh to Mumbai, had undertaken several money-laundering and extortion operations for Ansari. But Usmani is important for counter-terrorist agencies because of his thorough knowledge of many cities across various states.
Usmani escaped from the corridor of the sessions court around 2 pm. But it was only around 3.15 pm that Usmani’s escape was informed to police authorities.
“Considering the knowledge Usmani has about Mumbai and its roads, an hour’s time is more than enough for him to flee the city,” said a police officer, requesting anonymity.
Usmani, who played a critical role when he stole four vehicles that were used as car bombs in the July 27 serial bombings in Gujarat in 2008, is of considerable threat as he himself had planted explosives at LG Hospital and at a market place in Ahmedabad.
“There can be serious implications in terms of a terror threat if Usmani engineered the escape with a particular motive in place,” said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity.