Tribune News Service
Nabha, November 27
In a first-of-its kind attack in Punjab, six men, five of them in police uniform, made their way into the maximum-security Nabha Jail this morning and freed two terrorists, one of them Khalistan Liberation Force chief Harminder Singh ‘Mintoo’, and four gangsters, firing over 50 rounds.
The attackers came in four vehicles. One of the cars, a black Verna, was found abandoned near the Haryana village of Dhand later in the day. Perturbed at the attack barely months before the Assembly poll, the Punjab Government was quick to suspend Additional Director General of Police (Prisons) MK Tiwari and appointed Rohit Chaudhary, ADGP (Railways), in his place. With the Union Home Ministry seeking a detailed report, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been formed and a Rs 25-lakh reward announced for any information on the escapees.
“Two vehicles, including a Honda City and a Verna, approached the jail gate. A head constable got off and told the jail staff they had brought a convict. The staff saw an ASI seated in the front and opened the gate,” recalled an eyewitness.
A jail official said the Verna had three occupants in police uniform and a ‘prisoner’. Another car had two men in khaki. “On being told they had brought an undertrial, sentry Gurpreet Singh opened the gate without asking for ID proof. He was hit in the face with a revolver,” the official said. The attackers then opened indiscriminate fire. Taking another sentry hostage, they ordered him to open the inner gate even as one of them snatched a rifle from a guard and fired more than 20 shots, claimed sources. “As this happened, two more vehicles — a Fortuner and an i20 — made their way inside. The attackers were quick to spot Mintoo, Harjinder Singh Bhullar alias Vicky Gounder and four others. They shoved them into the Fortuner and fled, firing indiscriminately,” said a senior police officer.
Once out, the four vehicles turned towards a rail crossing, 500 metres away. Finding it closed, the vehicles turned back and speeded towards Samana via Nabha.
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“They kept firing into the air to create panic and threw the snatched rifle on the road. This was recorded by a CCTV camera of a flour mill opposite the jail,” said a police source.
What is worrying the police and probe agencies is the fact that the jail is spread across acres of land and it is well-nigh impossible to locate anyone without an announcement. However, the escapees were waiting near the inside gate, hinting at collusion by somebody inside the jail. The audacious operation took about 20 minutes.
Also read: The gangs of ‘prosperous’ Punjab
The jail staff did not retaliate. Eleven shots were fired from a light machine gun (LMG) atop the jail roof when the attackers had already escaped. The staff did not chase the attackers’ vehicles.
Jail Superintendent Paramjit Singh and deputy Karanjit Singh were not present during the attack. They have been dismissed. S Bhupati is the new Jail Superintendent. A case has been registered against 36 persons.
Harminder ‘Mintoo’ (49)
Khalistan Liberation Force chief and an aide were arrested by Punjab Police, central agencies in 2014 from Thailand. Suspected of role in 10 terror cases, including attack on Shiv Sena leaders
Kashmir Singh (39)
Arrested for attempt to murder Shiv Sena’s Punjab unit secy in Gurdaspur on April 12 last year. Hails from Galwadi village in Khanna. At the time of his arrest, he claimed to be a ‘granthi’
Gurpreet S Sekhon (27)
From a family of brick-kiln owners of Mudki village, co-accused in 2012 murder case in which gangster Shera Khubban was prime accused. Faced 13 criminal cases when he was arrested
Neeta Deol (49)
Dubai-based, he owns transport business. Son of former deputy director, Animal Husbandry, is prime accused in murder of Sukha Kahlwan. Was arrested at Amritsar airport in April 2015
Vicky Gounder (27)
Harjinder S Bhullar aka Gounder, is the prime suspect in the murder of gangster Sukha Kahlwan. He was moved to Nabha jail after a clash with a rival gang in Ropar jail
Amandeep Dhotian (27)
A resident of Tarn Taran’s Dhotian village, heads a gang in Majha. He and six aides were arrested a year back. Believed to be involved in number of robbery, loot cases
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