Sunday, March 9, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

‘Terrorist’ commits suicide, another held
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Sahnewal, March 8
A suspected terrorist was caught while his accomplice committed suicide in a ‘‘controversial’’ encounter between the police at Sahnewal on National Highway No. 1 today afternoon. The two were allegedly members of a Jammu and Kashmir -based terrorist organisation and had links with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Three police personnel - ASI Kuldip Singh and Constable Amarjit Singh and HC Shamsher Singh - suffered bullet injuries in the incident when the two fired on the members of a police party following them. One of the injured cops is a gunman of Ludhiana SSP H.S Sidhu while the other is posted with the Jalandhar police.

The police has seized 21 pistols of .32 calibre with Chinese markings. As many as 100 cartridges were also seized.

The arms were reportedly being supplied to these terrorists by the ISI to revive defunct terrorist outfits in Punjab. They had plans to strike in Punjab and Delhi, the police claimed.

The incident, however, was marred by a bitter controversy between the Ludhiana and Jalandhar police. Teams of both the police districts had specific information about the arrival of the terrorists but instead of working in co-ordination, the two teams allegedly worked at cross purposes resulting in a clash at the encounter site. Jalandhar range officer S.K Sharma is learnt to have intervened to cool the tempers on both sides. The outcome of the "operation" could have been different had both the teams shared leads and worked in tandem, highly placed sources told The Tribune.

The terrorists had arrived to receive a consignment of arms near a popular dhaba on the highway from a two-member group of arms suppliers that smuggles arms in the state for supplying to J&K-based terrorist organisations. Mystery shrouds the exact number of suspects at the encounter site as no one claimed to have seen or heard anything. Although the Ludhiana police did not divulge details about the exact number of persons involved, Jalandhar police sources said as a result of the showdown two persons had managed to escape.

Talking to TNS, Mr Sidhu said the killed terrorist was clean shaven but seemed to be a Sikh as the police had found a photograph of a turbaned man, resembling him, from one of his pockets. He said the identities of both the terrorists could not be established so far and the media would be informed later after complete verification.

He revealed that the local police had been working on the case for over six months. They received information about the terrorists’ arrival today afternoon and set up a trap. The terrorists came as per the information. However, on seeing that the police had surrounded them, one of them shot himself in the head and died on the spot, he added.

Although Mr Sidhu did not mention the role of the Jalandhar police and claimed that the operation was a joint venture between the district police and the military intelligence (MI). The presence of Jalandhar police personnel suggested there was lot more to the case. The SHO, Phillaur, Mr Jaswinder Singh, was released after the intervention of IG S.K Sharma, SP City-I, Jalandhar, Mr Pawan Rai, also reached the spot to assess the situation.

Mr H.S Sidhu and Mr Varinder Kumar, SSPs of both the police districts reportedly had a long telephonic conversation over the issue.

Inquiries reveal that the person who had died could have been caught alive and the two police personnel - one each of both the districts - could have escaped unhurt if they had acted in unison.

Ludhiana cops allegedly detained SHO Jaswinder Singh for about an hour along with other members of his team. Highly placed sources in the state police department have confirmed to The Tribune that the SHO was released only after the intervention by senior police officers.

A senior officer told TNS, ‘‘ Both the police teams had information about the incident and had reached at the place that could have caused some problems but it was nothing unusual. ’’ He said when he learnt about the problem he told both the teams to cool off and stopped acting against each other. ‘‘ He said this can happen in such important information as the police personnel were in mufti and anyone could be suspected.

‘‘Ultimately it is the victory for Punjab Police’’, he pointed out.

Jalandhar police sources revealed to TNS that their team had nabbed the two terrorists and Ludhiana police came later, It was in this melee that one of the unidentified terrorists managed to commit suicide while other two escaped.

However, Ludhiana police officers were having a closed door meeting in the Sahnewal police station at the time of filing of this story. 

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