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CHANDIGARH: Hours after a movie-style jail break in a high-security prison in Punjab, one of the conspirators, Parvinder Singh of Jalandhar, who is said to have provided logistics for the escape was arrested by Uttar Pradesh police in Shamli district of that state.
He was travelling in the Fortuner used in the escape, and a lot of arms and ammunition has been recovered from him, said sources.
One of the cars suspected to have been used in the escape from prison, a Hyundai Verna, has also been found abandoned in Sohlu Majra village in Kaithal district of Haryana. It had two number plates.
Six prisoners including dreaded Sikh militant, 49-year old Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) chief Harminder Singh alias Mintoo, had escaped from the high security Nabha jail this morning.
Besides Mintoo, another militant Kashmir Singh and four gangsters -- Harjinder Singh Bhullar alias Vicky Gondar, Kulpreet Singh alias Neeta Deol, Gurpreet Singh Sekhon and Amanpreet Tonda -- made good their escape.
Sources said about a dozen people dressed in police uniforms came in four vehicles -- a Toyota Fortuner, Hyundai I-20, Maruti Swift and Hyundai Verna -- to the prison. The culprits claimed to be police officers and said they had brought two handcuffed prisoners to be handed over to the jail authorities. Allowed inside past the outer gate of the jail, they overpowered the guards inside, proceeding to batter one of them and asking to be given the keys to the interior door. The keys gave them entry into the interior of the jail, where the six prisoners were ready, waiting in a corridor.
The culprits, who had automatic weapons, opened fire as cover for the escape, letting loose more 200 rounds. They bundled the prisoners into the four vehicles, with blankets as shrouds and drove away. It was over in half an hour, from 8.30 am to 9.00 am. Nobody was reported injured.
It is suspected that the attackers had help from inside.
Police have obtained CCTV footage from the jail and other nearby establishments of these vehicles fleeing withthe accused.
An eyewitness said, "More than a dozen people came out of the jail premises firing. It sounded like Diwali. They drove down, and on seeing that the railway crossing was closed, they turned around their vehicles and went on to the other side.
"They came in cars and had brought blankets with them in which there were weapons. The prisoners were hid under the blankets,’’ said another eyewitness Sukhwinder Singh.
While confirming that the 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.’’
Suresh Arora, Director General of Police, Punjab, did not rule out the connivance of jail staff and said that their role was being investigated.
Sources said intelligence reports had alerted the police of a possible jail break.
A massive search operation is going through the state to nab the accused on the run; borders with neighbouring states Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan have been sealed, all vehicles are being checked and these states have also been alerted.
Militant Mintoo had beeb involved in several cases of militancy and was wanted in 10 terrorist cases he and his operative Gurpreet Singh alias Gopi were arrested from Delhi airport on November 7, 2014 as the duo was deported from Thailand. Gopi was tasked with executing the targeted killings of Hindu leaders in 2013, which the Police foiled.
Gangster Gondar hails from Sarawan Bodla village in Lambi assembly segment and is a 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 arrested once more by the state police. His gang was primarily involved in highway robberies and murders, said police.
The Nabha jail is a high security jail and houses only top terrorists and gangsters. It has three layers of security besides electronic surveillance.
With assembly elections just two months away, the security breach assumes bigger proportions.
The Punjab Government has suspended Additional Director General of Police (Prisons) MK Tiwari, a 1987 batch IPS officer, and dismissed Nabha jail superintendent Paramjit Singh Sandhu and deputy superintendent Karanjit Singh Sandhu from service.
State home secretary Jagpal Singh Sandhu has been told to inquire into the incident besides a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been formed under the intelligence department. "We have suspended the ADGP and dismissed two jail department officials. An inquiry has been ordered into the incident which will be done by home secretary and he will submit the report within three days,’’ said Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Ropar Police have been asked to grill another gangster moved there last week from New Nabha jail
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked for a report of the incident from the state government.
Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh has charged the Badal Government with connivance in the Nabha jail break, saying the Khalistani militants and other dreaded gangsters had been deliberately freed from prison for use by the Akalis during the Assembly elections.
Alleging that the brazen daylight jail break would not have been possible without government complicity, Amarinder said the Badal-led Akalis were setting the stage for large-scale violence, even terror attacks, in the state ahead of the polls.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) National Spokesman and in-charge of party’s affairs in Punjab, Sanjay Singh demanded that Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal and Jail Minister Sohan Singh Thandal should resign from their posts at once owning direct responsibility for the Nabha jail break.
Singh said that Sukhbir Badal, being the Home Minister of Punjab, had no moral right to keep the Home portfolio even for a day as under him the state is being driven towards anarchy day by day.
Meanwhile Sukhbir Singh Badal visited Nabha jail in the afternoon to get first-hand information about the sensational jail escape.
Also, Haryana Police has been put on high alert and security beefed up at crucial points.
Details of all 6 Escapees:
1: Harminder Singh alias Mintoo, chief of Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), was booked by the Punjab Police in 10 cases of terror. He was born in 1967 at Dalli village of Jalandhar district and his family shifted to Goa in 1980s. He travelled to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar using a fake Malaysian passport and documents to travel. He had set-up his base in Thailand before being deported in 2014.
2: Harjinder Singh Bhullar alias Vicky Gounder is a gangster and prime suspect in the murder of gangster Sukha Kahlwan and was arrested in December 2015. He was moved to Nabha jail after a clash with a rival gang in Ropar jail.
3: Gurpreet Singh Sekhon alias Sonu Mudki is a suspected accomplice in a murder case during 2012 elections and belongs to a family of brick-kiln owners. He faces 13 criminal cases in Ferozepur, Faridkot, Moga, Bathinda and Chandigarh.
4: Kulpreet Singh alias Neeta Deol is a Dubai-based NRI who owns a transport business and is the prime suspect in the murder of gangster Sukha Kahlwan and is facing six criminal cases. He is the son of a former deputy director of animal husbandry Department and is originally from Moga district.
5: Amandeep Dhotian, a gangster, was arrested last year by Amritsar Police as he was involved in theft cases including carjacking and belongs to the Dhotian gang.
6: Kashmir Singh, who hails from Galwandi village under Khanna police district is a militant. He had shot at Punjab Shiv Sena leader Harvinder Soni in Gurdaspur last year, and was booked for attempt to murder.