Suspected top Indian Mujahiddeen (IM) operative Afzal Usmani escaped from police custody while he was being brought to a Mumbai court on Friday afternoon amidst reports that Indian and Pakistani terror outfits are ganging up to attack India.
While the authorities have suspended two police personnel for dereliction of duty and the police is reported to have launched a massive manhunt, Usmani, the prime accused in the 2008 Gujarat blasts, has not been traced so far.
The Mumbai police have been searching hotels, exit points to Mumbai, bus termini and railway stations, besides checking out with cabbies and autorickshaw drivers so far without clues.
Usmani, who is accused of involvement in the terror blasts in Ahmedabad and planting over two dozen bombs in Surat in Gujarat in July 2008, was arrested from Uttar Pradesh in August 2008.
Usmani, who had faced cases of attempt to murder and firing in the past, is reported to have joined the Mumbai underworld before becoming a terrorist.
On 26 July 2008, at least 21 blasts rocked Ahmedabad within an hour, killing 56 and injuring more than 200 people. The explosives were placed in the tiffin-boxes on bicycles, public buses and a couple of hospitals.
Indian security agencies had recently arrested two other IM operatives - Yasin Bhatkal and Abdul Karim Tunda.
Tunda is a top Lashkar-e-Taiba bomb expert accused of 1997 Delhi bomb blast case while Bhatkal is involved in "subversive activities" of causing bomb blasts in different parts of India since 2003.
Reports, meanwhile, suggested that a big terror threat is looming large over India with the terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) planning to team up with deadly terror group al Qaeda.
The report comes days after Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri issued his first specific guidelines for jihad and endorsed the right of militants to fight Indians in Kashmir.
Zawahri, however, urged restraint in attacking other Muslim sects and non-Muslims and in starting conflicts in countries where `jihadis' might find a safe base to promote their ideas.
The report further suggests that both the terror groups are in final stages of a deal. Modalities like whether the IM would be an assisting outfit of Qaeda in India or merging with the largest terror group are being worked out.
Yasin Bhatkal, who was arrested this August from the Indo-Nepal border, is reported to have disclosed that Riyaz Bhatkal along with another IM member Mirza Shadab Beg had decided to go to Afghanistan and meet Zawhiri.
Reports said the al Qaeda boss didn't meet the duo personally, but sent his aide to apprise them about Zawahiri's plans to attack foreigners in India.
IM co-founders and terrorists Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal are being "harboured" by Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI, India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) told a court on Wednesday.