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A militant leader of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) faction Tuesday escaped from JNIMS hospital security ward in Imphal. Thokchom Nando aka KCP Nando is also the main accused in the infamous rape and murder case of an eight-year-old in 2003.

Police said the Nando was found missing from his bed around 6 am in the morning when one of the jail warders went to check on him.

The militant leader had been hospitalized at the general ward of JNIMS Orthopaedic department since November 26, 2018, following a spinal injury. On February 8, 2019, he reportedly underwent surgery for the injury.

Nando was guarded round the clock by jail security personnel besides being cuffed to his bed all the time, a jail official said.

Top police brass, including the DGP of Manipur L M Khaute, rushed to the hospital and inspected the ward where Nando was lodged. While the DGP declined to give any comments on the incident, police have registered a case. Police have also declared a bounty of Rs 1 lakh for information leading to the arrest of Nando.

Jail warder H Rockson, who alerted the police about the incident, said that the key to Nando’s cuff was handed over to him by his fellow warder Rameshwar, soon after he (Rameshwar) finished his shift. After a few seconds, Rockson reportedly went to check on Nando only to be found missing from his bed.

Contradictory to the claim made by the jail guards, another patient, who was in the same ward with Nando, said that he heard some commotion in the wee hour of Tuesday morning around 3 am.

The patient, who does not want to be named, was admitted with a fractured leg. He said that he did not sleep the whole night due to the pain in his leg. He further claimed that he overheard someone complaining that Nando was missing.

KCP Nando is charged with several cases of extortion, kidnapping, including the infamous rape and murder of the girl. The eight-year-old was found dead in November 2003, eight days after she was kidnapped from her school for ransom. Her decomposed body was found inside a gunny bag not very far from her school despite being paid a sum of Rs 10 lakh. Police investigation later revealed that the victim was also subjected to sexual assault. She was kidnapped for a ransom of Rs 15 lakh.

Later, the case was handed over to the CBI following which it was established that Nando was the mastermind behind the kidnapping of the minor girl. After four years of the incident, the CBI charge sheeted four persons including Nando. The judgement order of the infamous murder trial is due to be announced on March 30.

Despite having lodged in jail since 2003, Nando was found involved in multiple cases of murder and extortion.

In the latest incident, on March 10, police seized 12 extortion letters including a press release, two mobile phones from Nando’s possession inside the hospital where he was lodged.