Chandigarh, November 27 (NIA): In a meticulously planned and swift operation, unidentified men armed with automatic weapons sneaked into a high security prison in Nabha in India’s Punjab state on Sunday, opened fire and rescued six prisoners including two terrorists, three gangsters and the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) chief Harminder Singh alias Mintoo.
The operation, which took just 10 minutes, was conducted at breakfast time when all prisoners were out of their cells.
The gunmen had entered the jail dressed as policemen with a manacled man in tow. The jail guards were inveigled into believing that that they were “policemen” wanting to put the manacled man in prison. But the moment the intruders sensed that the guards had become suspicious, they opened fire. About 200 rounds were fired and in the melee, the intruders escaped with the gangsters they wented to rescue. .
The prisoners have been identified as Kashmit Galhari, a militant and the gangsters -Vicky Gondar, Neeta Johak, GurpreetSingh and Bikramjit Bika,
Sources point out that about a dozen people dressed in police uniforms barged inside attacked the prison in two vehicle-Toyota Fortuner and Hundayi Verna. The jail guards retaliated but could not stop the escape. Some one hundred rounds were fired by these persons on the security personnel outside the jail and before the escape, although nobody was reported injured.
An eyewitness said,” More than a dozen people came out of the jail premises firing, it seemed as if Diwali was going on. They drove back after completing the task, but with the railway crossing closed they had turn their vehicles and go to the other side.”
While confirming that prisoners had escaped, Punjab director general of police (Law and Order) HS Dhillon said, “Police have cordoned off the area and high alert has been sounded in the state.
Sources said that intelligence reports had already alerted the police of a possible jail break. Militant Mintto was involved in several cases of militancy and was wanted in ten terrorist cases.
He and his operative Gurpreet Singh alias Gopi were arrested from the Delhi airport on November 7, 2014 as the duo was deported from Thailand. Gopi was tasked with executing targeted killings of Hindu leaders in 2013, which the police foiled.
While gangster Gondar hails from Sarawan Bodla village in Lambi assembly segment and is prime suspect in the murder of gangster Sukha Kahlwan. He was arrested in December last year but later escaped from the custody of Ropar police. But he was again arrested by the State police. His gang is primarily involved in highway robberies and murders. The Punjab Police have also alerted the neighboring states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan of the prison break.
The Nabha jail is a high security jail and thus only top terrorists and gangsters are kept in the jail. It has three layers of security besides electronic surveillance. The escape is termed as security breach. The other point which is been raised is that the assembly elections are just two months away.
At a meeting between Punjab DGP Suresh Arora and Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal who is also the home minister of the state it was decided to sack the jail superintendent.
Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh said the incident had exposed a complete breakdown of law and order in the state, while triggering fears of revival of terrorism ahead of the Assembly elections.
“The shocking manner in which the gangsters walked into the high-security jail and freed a dreaded KLF terrorist along with other convicts clearly shows complicity at the highest levels,’’ he said.
A woman was killed when police opened fire at a vehicle which jumped a security barricade on the Patiala-Gulha Cheeka road hours after five prisoners including Khalistan Liberation Front chief Harminder Mintoo were rescued from the high-security Nabha Jail..
A police officer said the vehicle did not stop at the barricade and the driver tried to evade policemen, prompting them to open fire. The woman received bullet injury and died soon after. It was not immediately clear whether the woman was travelling in the vehicle that jumped the barricade, the officer said.
Well Planned Attack
Audacious as it may sound, the Sunday morning Nabha jailbreak in Punjab seems to have been carried out with great ease, The Hindustan Times said..
It took the attackers just 10 minutes to get dreaded Khalistan Liberation Force “chief” Harminder Singh alias Mintoo and four notorious gangsters out of the prison.
While the eyewitness account of the events raises questions about policing at the high-security prison, it also highlights the planning gone into the strike.
At around 8.45am, two “policemen” came to the Nabha jail main gate with a handcuffed man in tow, jail staff said. The two men – one dressed as an ASI and other as a constable — told the prison guards they had come to drop a prisoner.
They were allowed in. In the jail, they asked the two policemen on duty for keys to the cells so that they could lock up the handcuffed man, jail sources said.
The policemen got suspicious and said they would escort the man to the cell themselves, asking the two men to leave. Suddenly, one of the men pulled out a dagger and put it in the mouth of the policeman who had told them to go.
His accomplice put a gun to the head of the second policeman and the two attackers yelled out, asking rest of the group, which was waiting outside, to come in.
hey then opened fire, spraying bullets in all directions to pre-empt police action, sources said.
As the firing was on, an attacker called out the names of Harminder Singh and the four gangsters, who stepped out in no time.
The five men were taken out of the jail immediately and driven away in a Toyota Fortuner amid heavy firing, sources said.
The group timed the attack with the breakfast hour when prisoners are brought out of their cells, sources said, adding the response of the five prisoners indicated they knew of the plan.
The remaining members of the group fled in two vehicles and all it took was 10 minutes.
(The featured picture at the top is that of Harminder Singh Mintoo, chief of the Sikh militant group, Khalistan Liberation Force)