- A third escape attempt by Anibal dos Santos ("Anibalzinho") was prevented this weekend, only 72 hours before the new trial against him was to start. A senior source in Mozambique's police confirmed to 'mediafaX' that Anibalzinho was about to escape from his cell but was stopped by a new prison guard working at the Maputo police Central Command. The assumed killer of editor Carlos Cardoso probably had inside assistance.
"The two armoured doors were already were opened and there only remained one to open" to finalise the escape of Anibalzinho, the source told mediafaX. The alleged killer of Mr Cardoso has yet to be convicted directly in court and his trial is to start today in Maputo.
The escape plan was minutely prepared. It included the opening of several armoured doors that also served to detain other prisoners, some of whom were to escape on Saturday. Among the fugitives is the main suspect behind the death of business leader Jorge Microsse, only identified as "Todinho". He had been held under maximum security in the Maputo detention centre.
"There only remained one armoured door to open, which would have given access to Anibalzinho," the source of mediaFAX continued. The not expected intervention of a prison guard, who just had been posted at the detention centre, was motivated by "strange movements in the cell". He spontaneously prevented what would have been the biggest blow in the history of prison security in Mozambique, immediately informing his superiors about the movements in the cell where Anibalzinho was locked up. The escape attempt was registered at 16:30 on Saturday, normally a very quiet period at the working place compared to weekdays.
Anibalzinho has already run away twice from maximum security cells before being jailed at police headquarters in Maputo. His last spectacular escape in May 2004 took him to Canada, where he was later detained and extradited to Mozambique.
Anibalzinho's escape plan had the objective of creating confusion among Mozambicans, to ridicule and create doubts about the country's judiciary and to paralyse President Armando Guebuza's attempt to recover public faith in the government and his drive to fight corruption and crime.
Anibalzinho is considered the brain behind the operation to liquidate journalist Carlos Cardoso, which occurred on 22 November 2000. Together with Anibalzinho, other dangerous prisoners were to escape in order to cover up the operation, a leading police official told 'mediafaX'. The escape of Todinho was aimed at confusing public opinion about the operation centred on Anibalzinho, he explained.
The escape of Todinho nevertheless appears as a strange coincidence. Todinho only recently was transferred to the Maputo police central and the murder suspect was to appear in a hearing at the public prosecutor next week. The strange coincidence of his escape raises suspicions of possible links between the murder of Mr Microsse and other crimes allegedly committed by state institutions.
A government report published in the first trimester of 2005 on corruption and crime in Mozambique, pointed at the policy and the judiciary as most the corrupt institutions of the country. Public opinion was strengthened in its belief that crime pays. The two last escapes of Anibalzinho yet have to be solved, but it is sure that he had had inside assistance from prison guards. Meanwhile, tension is building up at the Maputo police command between different security agents distrusting each other and fearing that Anibalzinho will escape again before a verdict is handed down on him.
Given the gravity of the escape attempts this weekend, Mozambican police authorities have already commanded the immediate detention of four police agents - including two officers and two guards - accused of facilitating the escapes. It is unknown where these police officers are held detained. One of the detained was named as police inspector Albano Silva. Mr Silva is accused of being the leader of the escape operation, according to statements by the investigators of the case to 'mediaFAX'.
However, an official press release issued by the police and received by 'mediaFAX', announced the detention of a total of 8 police agents - including officers, sergeants and guards - in connection with the weekend's escapes. They are accused of not complying with their professional obligations and allowing the five escapes.
The investigators of the case told 'mediaFAX' that the five fugitives had been observed heading for Ponta-Ouro, probably trying to reach neighbouring South Africa. Big efforts were in place to assure the recapturing of the five, the Maputo police assured.
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