The Punjab CM calls it an act of terror, says grenade used was similar to ones manufactured in Pakistan army ordnance factory.
Chandigarh: The Punjab police is yet to make any substantive headway in Sunday’s grenade attack incident in Amritsar that killed three persons and injured 20 even as chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh said he suspects Pakistan’s role in it.
Two motorcycle-borne men, with their faces covered, stopped outside the Nirankari Bhawan in village Adliwal around 11.15 am Sunday. One of them forced his way into the hall brandishing a pistol. He detained the sewadar and lobbed a grenade into the prayer room before fleeing with the other man on the motorcycle.
The police rounded up half a dozen men from Amritsar and Bathinda Sunday night and are questioning them. They have released CCTV footage of the two turbaned men on the motorcycle besides their sketches. There was no registration number on the bike.
Chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, who visited the blast site and met the injured in the hospital Monday afternoon, said, “The attack at Amritsar should not be linked to what happened in Punjab in 1978 which was a religious clash (between the Nirankaris and Sikhs led to the killing of 16 people).”
“What happened in Amritsar is an act of terror,” the CM said, addressing reporters.
Singh said the attack seemed to carry Pakistan’s signature, with initial investigations indicating that the grenade used was similar to the ones being manufactured by the Pakistan Army’s ordnance factory.
He said the police had recovered similar HG- 84 grenade from a terror module busted by the Punjab Police last month, indicating a high probability of the involvement of forces from across the border.
The CM announced a Rs 50 lakh reward for anyone giving information about the two men who lobbed the grenade.
No outfit has claimed responsibility
In the absence of any organisation claiming responsibility for the blast, the police are working on various possibilities, including the coming together of Sikh hardliners and Kashmiri militants for the attack.
“There is no doubt that Pakistan’s ISI is behind the attack. It could be another attempt of the agency to expand the arc of militancy on India’s western border,” said a senior police officer investigating the crime.
He said it could be the handiwork of ISI backed Sikh militants or Kashmiri militants or both working in tandem.
A three-member team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that arrived in Amritsar Sunday night is also working with the Punjab police to solve the case.
Kashmiri terrorists’ angle
On 15 September, four low-intensity blasts took place at Maqsudan police station in Jalandhar, injuring a policeman. A day later, Bhindranwale Tigers Force (BTF) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Earlier this month, the Punjab police claimed to have solved the case after it arrested two BTech students of the St Soldier College of Engineering and Technology in Jalandhar. The students — Shahid Qayoom (22) and Fazil Bashir (23) — were allegedly aligned to Kashmir-based militant group Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGH), the police had said, adding that two accomplices were still absconding.
Last month, the Punjab police had in collaboration with special operations group (SOG) of the J&K police claimed to have busted another Kashmiri terror module in Jalandhar in which three students were arrested from the hostel of CT Institute of Engineering Management and Technology, Lambri, Jalandhar. Two weapons, including an assault rifle, were seized from them along with explosives.
These students too were said to be associated with AGH, which is linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). The case was later handed over to NIA.
‘Dreaded terrorist Zakir Musa spotted’
Intelligence inputs issued last week suggested that AGH chief Zakir Rashid Bhatt alias Zakir Musa was spotted in Punjab with a group of at least half a dozen men.
The police said the grenades used in the attack on the Maqsudan police station were different from the one used in Amritsar Sunday. A small crater, 3 inches in diameter, was formed by the impact of the explosion, and was being examined by the forensic team. The safety valve of the grenade has also been found and is being examined.
The police are also probing the possible involvement of Sikh militant groups in the attack. “Since the attack took place at the Nirankari Bhawan, the first set of persons in the line of suspicion are Pakistan-backed Sikh militants. But it could also be a red herring,” said an officer who did not wish to be identified.
Earlier this month, the police had arrested one Maninder Lahoria from Patiala who had allegedly been asked by his Pakistan-based handlers to target police posts and crowded places during the upcoming festival season. A pistol, a hand grenade, a motorcycle and letter pads in the name of ‘Khalistan Gadar Force’ were seized from him.
The police had added that Lahoria’s arrest has revealed the nexus between ISI and Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a separatist organization, as one of Lahoria’s handler was an SFJ operative.
In June, police had arrested three persons, believed to be members of the banned International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF).
“Several attempts are made to target peace in Punjab. We have to be on a constant alert,” Punjab DGP Suresh Arora told a local TV channel Sunday.
“Sometimes we are able to nab the culprits while they are planning an attack and sometimes they manage to carry out an attack,” Arora added.
Police added that 15 terror modules had been busted by the police in the past 18 months.
The police are also investigating the possible role of the Satkar Committee, a reformist organisation with branches across Punjab, in the blast. Local police said that a tussle between the Nirankaris and Satkar Committee members was going on for some time now.
Nirankaris wanted to construct another building at village Tapiala in Amritsar which the Satkar Committee was opposed to.
Members of the committee had disrupted a satsang being held at the house of a Nirankari in the village. A case was also registered in this regard at the Raja Sansi police station a few months ago.