Tunnel found in Sabarmati jail cell housing blasts suspects

Monday
A jail-break attempt was foiled at the Sabarmati central jail after authorities discovered a 26-ft-long tunnel dug under a barrack where 14 men accused of being behind the July 2008 Ahmedabad serial bomb blasts were lodged.

The tunnel was noticed at midnight on Sunday after jail guards on patrol found some wet soil in the lobby of the special cell where the suspects are housed. The guards and officers on duty apparently also found the behaviour of inmates in barrack number 4 at "Chota Chakkar", a yard within the jail premises, suspicious.

On checking, the officers found the tunnel towards the back side of the special cell. It was about 26-ft long, 16.5-ft deep and 4-ft wide and was covered with a steel plate and some wet mud with grass over it, sources said, adding that a rope tied to the steel plate went down into the tunnel.

"We have not found any tools from their barrack but we suspect they have used the tools used for gardening in the jails. They had volunteered for gardening work around the barrack and under that cover they were dumping the sand extracted from the tunnel into the garden outside," Superintendent of Police (Jails) R J Pargi said.

Jail authorities have booked a case against the 14 blast suspects including the two key accused — 40-year-old Abu Bashr of Azamgarh and 24-year-old Usman Aggarbatiwala of Vadodara. The minister of state for Home Rajnikant Patel has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Police sources said the accused had been digging the tunnel for six months now. Their work was so discreet that no jail officer suspected anything amiss until the guard noticed the wet soil and raised an alarm. The bomb disposal squad and the dog squad checked the premises to ensure the tunnel was not dug to hide explosives or weapons and no suspicious objects were found.

When questioned by top jail officers, the blast accused told them they were tired of prison as the court was neither punishing them nor acquitting them, sources claimed.

"The case has been taken over by the crime branch. We will probe the case in detail on how the tunnel was being dug up and who all are involved," joint commissioner of police A K Sharma said. Security at the jail has been doubled and all jail guards and officers have been asked to step up patrols and checks of barracks, sources said.

Fifty-six people were killed and more than 200 injured in the Ahmedabad blasts of July 26, 2008. Police had arrested 68 suspects of whom 14 were lodged in this barrack.

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