Terror suspect escapes in Pakistan

Warrick Page/Getty Images Rashid Rauf—arrested last year as the alleged mastermind of a plot to blow up a dozen airplanes over the Atlantic (and relegating all of us to live in carry-on hell ever after)—has escaped in Pakistan just after appearing at an extradition hearing in Islamabad. Rauf was apparently allowed by his police handlers ...

597544_rashidrauf_05.jpg
597544_rashidrauf_05.jpg

Warrick Page/Getty Images

Rashid Rauf—arrested last year as the alleged mastermind of a plot to blow up a dozen airplanes over the Atlantic (and relegating all of us to live in carry-on hell ever after)—has escaped in Pakistan just after appearing at an extradition hearing in Islamabad. Rauf was apparently allowed by his police handlers to stop at a mosque to pray after the hearing. When he didn't reemerge from the mosque's prayer room, the police realized he had escaped through a back door. His handlers have since been detained. Regardless, it's clearly an embarrassment for Musharraf to lose such a high-profile terror suspect, and bad news for the Brits, who wanted to extradite Rauf to ask him about the airline plot and the murder of his uncle in Birmingham in 2002. 

A Pakistani court dropped the terrorism charges against Rauf late last year, but that was after it was reported that Rauf has extensive links with extremists groups in Pakistan, including al Qaeda. Reports today suggest that the Brits and Americans (no doubt also interested in Rauf's whereabouts) are giving Pakistani officials the benefit of the doubt that this was a case of police bungling and not something more sinister. That's looking increasingly hard to believe amid reports that the policemen waited a few hours to report Rauf missing. 

Warrick Page/Getty Images

Rashid Rauf—arrested last year as the alleged mastermind of a plot to blow up a dozen airplanes over the Atlantic (and relegating all of us to live in carry-on hell ever after)—has escaped in Pakistan just after appearing at an extradition hearing in Islamabad. Rauf was apparently allowed by his police handlers to stop at a mosque to pray after the hearing. When he didn’t reemerge from the mosque’s prayer room, the police realized he had escaped through a back door. His handlers have since been detained. Regardless, it’s clearly an embarrassment for Musharraf to lose such a high-profile terror suspect, and bad news for the Brits, who wanted to extradite Rauf to ask him about the airline plot and the murder of his uncle in Birmingham in 2002. 

A Pakistani court dropped the terrorism charges against Rauf late last year, but that was after it was reported that Rauf has extensive links with extremists groups in Pakistan, including al Qaeda. Reports today suggest that the Brits and Americans (no doubt also interested in Rauf’s whereabouts) are giving Pakistani officials the benefit of the doubt that this was a case of police bungling and not something more sinister. That’s looking increasingly hard to believe amid reports that the policemen waited a few hours to report Rauf missing. 

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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