Ahmedabad: A daring jailbreak planned by Ahmedabad serial blasts case undertrials at the Sabarmati Central Jail was thwarted by prison officials who uncovered a 18-feet long tunnel dug in the barrack where some of them were lodged.
As the plot for the great escape from barrack No 4 named `Chhota Chakkar` stunned jail authorities, an FIR has been lodged against 14 of the serial blasts accused and a probe is underway. The tunnel was discovered late on Sunday night.
"We have found a tunnel dug in the barrack where 14 of the serial bomb blasts accused are lodged. We have registered an FIR and investigation is on," Superintendent of Sabarmati Central Jail V M Parghi said Monday.
Sources said that Usman Agarbatti, a civil engineer and one of the 14 accused put up in the barrack, is allegedly the mastermind behind the plan, sources said.
The sources said the tunnel was being dug with such finesse that the plan was to link it with an underground sewer line that passed beneath the main gate of the jail premises.
The probe has been handed over to the Crime Branch of the Ahmedabad police.
Late last night, when jail authorities suspected something amiss in the behaviour of two inmates at barrack number four, they searched it and found the tunnel dug from inside the barrack, police said.
"Out of 68 accused of the serial bomb blasts case, 14 were lodged in this barrack and we have started probe on since how long digging work was on, how they were digging it and who else are involved," said Parghi without divulging any further details. A Crime Branch officer suspected the digging may have been going on for the past two to three months.
The state Home Ministry has ordered an enquiry into the incident following a high-level meeting held this morning by Minister of State for Home Rajnikant Patel.
Pargi said they have not found any tools but it seems the accused were using dinner plates and wood to dig the tunnel.
"They had volunteered for the gardening work around the barrack and under that cover they were dumping the sand extracted from the tunnel into the garden outside," said Jail IG P C Thakur.
On July 26, 2008, twenty near simultaneous bomb blasts across the city had killed 57 people. All the blast accused are lodged in Sabarmati Central Jail as trial has been ordered to be conducted in the premises because of security reasons.
"Every day they used to get three hours free time to do work of their choice and we are suspecting that they might have used that time to dug the tunnel," Thakur added.
He also claimed that no matter how long they might have dug the tunnel, their escape was impossible as the wall surrounding the barracks are 21 feet high and 20 ft deep into the earth.
Thakur, however ducked queries as to how could jail authorities fail to know about it till now. "Let us first investigate the whole incident," he said.
A battery of high ranking officers including State Jail IG P C Thakur, JCP city Crime Branch Himanshu Shukla and other officer from Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS), Special Operation Group (SOG) and Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) have rushed to the jail premises.
Some of the 14 bomb blast accused who were lodged in the barrack where tunnel was found are: Sajid Mansuri, Yunus Mansuri, Shamshood Shahpurwala, Javed Sheikh, Kadri Juhapurawala, Arif Kadri, Umar Kala, Usman Agarbatti, Kayamuddin and Mufti Abu Bashar.
Additional Principal Sessions Judge Jyotsana Yagnik, who is conducting the trial of the serial bomb blast case, also visited the jail premises this morning.
Trial of the serial blasts case is being conducted inside Sabarmati Central Jail, as state government has invoked section 268 of the Criminal Procedure Code(CrPC) against all the accused in the case, restricting their movement.
More than 35 FIRs have been filed and nearly 24 accused are still absconding, including Riyaz Bhatkal, Mufti Sufiyan Patangia.