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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

‘Pak-based gangster’ is key suspect in Mohali ‘terror’ attack

Mohali Police said the launcher used for the attack was found but did not provide further details. “It is definitely a terror attack,” a senior police officer told The Indian Express.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal , Jagdeep Singh Deep | Chandigarh, Mohali |
Updated: May 11, 2022 7:07:46 am
At the Punjab Police office in Mohali, Tuesday. (Express Photo by Jasbir Malhi)

Preliminary investigations indicate that the attack on Punjab Police’s Intelligence headquarters in Mohali was allegedly orchestrated by a wanted gangster, Harvinder Singh alias Rinda, who is believed to be currently based in Pakistan and involved in terror operations against India, sources told The Indian Express.

On Tuesday, the day after a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) was fired at the building, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said “some people” have been arrested and more will be detained. “Whosoever has dared to threaten peace in Punjab will not be spared,” he said.

Police sources said over 20 people have been detained so far, including a suspect from Ambala, for questioning in the attack which did not cause any injury. Among them are “a few suspects” who are believed to have provided “logistics support” for the attack, the sources said, adding that ten teams have been formed to nab the accused.

Mohali Police said the launcher used for the attack was found but did not provide further details. “It is definitely a terror attack,” a senior police officer told The Indian Express.

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Sources said Rinda, 35, is also believed to have sent a consignment of explosives that is suspected to have been dropped on a Ferozepur field recently by drones from Pakistan. The consignment was seized last Thursday from four Punjab residents who are alleged associates of Rinda and were on their way to Telangana.

Broken windows at the Punjab Police’s Intelligence headquarters in Mohali after the attack. (Express)

Rinda was earlier suspected to have orchestrated the hand-grenade attack at the Crime Investigating Agency building in Nawanshahr on the night of November 7 last year. No injuries were reported in that incident.

A police officer said “radical elements appear to have carried out the attack in reaction to the recent arrests and recoveries of arms and ammunition by the police — and police projecting the crackdown in a big way”.

The Mohali attack also reverberated in the political arena with state Congress leaders describing it as a “wake up call” for the AAP government and demanding a security review.

On Tuesday, investigators from the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and other agencies visited the site. “NIA inspects all suspected terror attack sites in a routine manner. As it is a federal agency with jurisdiction across the country, it has the mandate to inspect sites to determine whether it is a fit case for the Central agency to probe,” a Central official said.

The Intelligence headquarters houses offices of the Intelligence wing, Internal Security, Counter Intelligence, Financial Intelligence Unit, Organised Crime Control Unit (OCCU), which has been merged into the newly formed Anti Gangster Task Force (AGTF), and the Anti-Terrorism Squad.

“It is for the first time that an RPG has been used in an attack in the state. It requires training and cannot be launched by an amateur,” a police source said. Sources said a white car used by the culprits was last spotted near Dera Bassi, about 20 km away from the site.

Following the attack, the police registered an FIR against unknown persons at Sohana police station under IPC section 307 (attempt to murder), and sections of UAPA and Explosive Substances Act.

Punjab DGP Viresh Kumar Bhawra told reporters that the explosive used in the attack “appears to be TNT”. “Investigations are on and we shall soon reveal the culprits behind the attack,” he said.

Following the attack, the police registered an FIR against unknown persons at Sohana police station under IPC section 307 (attempt to murder), and sections of UAPA and Explosive Substances Act. (Express)

Bhawra said there was no loss of life as the attack happened late on Monday evening when the office was deserted. “The grenade is said to have been fired from a distance of about 80 metres. It’s a challenge but we will crack the case,” he said.

The audacious attack has, however, put the functioning of the Intelligence wing under the scanner. “The building is more important than the main police building in Chandigarh where the state DGP’s office is located. Although there was not much damage caused, the blast was an attempt to convey a message that radicals can even target the Intelligence wing’s building,” said a senior official.

Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa urged the Chief Minister to review the security situation and call an all-party meeting on the issue of peace and security in Punjab. In Delhi, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Singh Shergill said the Punjab government was incapable of handling the probe and urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah to involve central agencies.

Former Congress Punjab chief Navjot Singh Sidhu tweeted: “The attack on Intelligence office in Mohali goes to show State Intelligence in very poor light…Wake up call for Govt. Eternal vigilance need of the hour, Law & order top notch priority! Prevent & prepare rather than repent & repair.”

BJP spokesperson Dr Subhash Sharma called for a coordinated effort to counter the challenge and extended full support to the AAP government.

(With inputs from ENS/Delhi)

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