One day after the Taliban consolidated its command into the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan under the command of Baitullah Mehsud, al Qaeda commander Rashid Rauf has escaped Pakistani police custody. Rauf, who was one of two of the suspected ringleaders of the al Qaeda London Airline Plot to destroy aircraft en route to the United States, escaped after appearing before a judge in the capital of Islamabad.
“Rauf managed to open his handcuffs and evade two police guards who were taking him back to jail in the nearby city of Rawalpindi,” Khalid Pervez, a city police official, told The Associated Press. “We do not know how he escaped. But we do know he has escaped and the two policemen have been taken into custody for negligence.”
In August 2006, Rauf was arrested by Pakistani intelligence in the city of Bahawalpur. US intelligence described Rauf as “the planner of the [foiled airline] attacks who recruited people to take part in the plot. He was awaiting a decision on whether he would be extradited to Britain before his escape.”
Rauf is a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader the Pakistani based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), which conducts terror attacks in Indian Kashmir. JeM serves as al Qaeda’s “muscle” in Pakistan. Rauf’s father-in-law runs the radical Darul Uloom Madina, one of Pakistan’s largest, radical religious seminaries. The Darul Uloom Madina is based in Bahawalpur and has over 2,000 students.
Rauf’s father founded Crescent Relief, a Muslim charity that purportedly collected funds for earthquake relief and is now under investigation for funneling money to fund the London plot.
Tayib Rauf, Rashid’s brother, was arrested in Britain for his involvement with the London airline plot along with 22 other suspects. The British government froze Tayib and 18 other suspect’s bank accounts. Most of the suspects arrested in Britain were British nationals of Pakistani origin.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.