The terrorists who attacked Pathankot airbase are suspected to be the same lot who killed a taxi driver Ikagar Singh near Kathlore bridge Friday and later snatched the Mahindra XUV 500 of Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, taking him, his friend Rajesh Verma, a jeweller, and the SP’s cook hostage. Their hands tied, the SP and his cook were thrown out of the vehicle and the terrorists took Verma along as they proceeded towards the airbase.
The vehicle was found abandoned in Akalgarh village, merely 500 metres from the airbase. The terrorists tried to slit Verma’s throat but he pretended to be dead and survived. He is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Pathankot.
Sources said that as per Verma’s account, the terrorists used a mobile phone to stay in touch probably with their handlers or accomplices. A police officer said there were four terrorists and one of them also made a call to Pakistan to his “mother” from Verma’s mobile phone, addressing her as “Ammi Jaan” and speaking to her for a while.
The terrorists, the official said, broke the mobile phone of the SP with the guns they were carrying and, after travelling some distance, decided to dump the SP and his cook at a place near Sambli village, some 10 km from Akalgarh.
“Their hands were tied with the turban cloth of the SP and they were told not to leave the place till they (terrorists) come back at 8 am after finishing a task. The terrorists probable dumped the duo thinking that it was difficult to handle three persons and they told them that they were taking along their friend, that for his safe return, they should not move from that place,” the official said. It was only later that the terrorists learnt from Verma that Salwinder Singh was a police officer.
“They spoke to someone over phone and when they said that the man they had dumped was a senior police officer, they were instructed to go back and take the SP hostage again. But by the time they returned, the SP and the cook had managed to leave the place. Infuriated, they decided to slit the throat of Verma. They said isko jannat pahuncha do (send him to paradise). Luckily, the injury was not fatal. Verma pretended to be dead. They also kicked him,” the officer said.
According to the officer, the terrorists were addressing each other as “alpha, major, commander”. “While on phone, they informed the person on the other side that they had reached the safe place,” the officer said quoting Verma. The officer said the terrorists also asked about Amritsar airport and “any good route to reach there”.
The distance between the place where they snatched the SP’s vehicle and Akalgarh village, where it was found abandoned, is more than 50 km.