Bhopal: The eight members of banned group SIMI that escaped from prison and were then gunned down on Sunday "were planning a huge terror attack," said Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupinder Singh to NDTV, adding that a "big network" made their jail break possible.
- 8 prisoners gunned down near Bhopal after jail break
- Videos show they were unarmed, shot at close range
- Government says they were planning big terror attack
"If such terrorists had managed to escape, it would have been a great threat to national security. The Madhya Police managed to trace and kill them in a short time," he said of the members of the Student Islamist Movement of India (SIMI), which was banned in 2001 as a terror group.
The National Human Rights Commission or NHRC has demanded an explanation from the Madhya Pradesh government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan as well as the state police after a series of videos showed the prisoners being killed, apparently in cold blood at close range and without any signs of a shootout (NDTV cannot verify the authenticity of these videos). The government has said that while the footage is being examined, it will not be investigated separately from a probe that seeks to determine how the prison break took place at Bhopal's central jail.
On Sunday, taking advantage of allegedly lighter patrolling because of Diwali, the prisoners strung bedsheets together and then scaled a wall nearly 30-feet high, according to the police. They killed a prison guard before managing to escape. At this time, according to the government and the police, the men were armed with spoons served with their meals.
Hours later, they were found in a forested village about 10 miles south of the state's capital of Bhopal.
The Inspector General of Bhopal, Yogesh Choudhry, told NDTV that when the cops confronted them, the prisoners opened fire using four country-made pistols. However, he ceded, the three policemen who were injured were hit with sharp weapons and not bullets.
Madhya Pradesh's Home Minister stressed that the SIMI men were hardened criminals who had been jailed on charges ranging from terrorism to sedition and murder.
"They have been charged with being involved in terrorist activities. They had planned this jailbreak. This is the most secured jail in Madhya Pradesh. It was obvious that a big network is behind this planning," he said to NDTV.
Kusum Mehdale, the minister in charge of the state's prisons admitted that the jail break may have been "an insider job" and said lapses in security include CCTVs that were not working.