In the first such strike in Punjab in eight years, three suspected Pakistan-based terrorists attacked a passenger bus and stormed a police station in Dinanagar early Monday, killing seven persons including an SP, before being gunned down after a 12-hour firefight.
Director General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini said the terrorists, wearing combat fatigues, were carrying two GPS systems and hand grenades.
Five bombs placed by the terrorists on the railway tracks were removed by a bomb disposal squad.
Watch: Analysis of Gurdaspur Terror Attack With Praveen Swami
“It is too early to say where they had come from,” Saini said, before adding that there were some “pointers”. He said these “pointers” did not suggest any link to groups seeking a separate Khalistan.
Dinanagar is nearly 20 kmfrom the border with Pakistan.
In the dawn attack, the terrorists, suspected to be members of Pakistan-based terror groups, first targeted a roadside eatery, then fired at a passenger bus before storming the Dinanagar police station.
Seven persons — three civilians, Superintendent of Police (Detective) Baljit Singh and three home guards — were killed by the terrorists who engaged Punjab policemen from inside the building they were holed up in.
The Army, which reached the spot on the request of the district administration, was kept largely on ‘standby’ as SWAT squads joined Punjab policemen to take on the terrorists.
Among the civilians killed were Ghulam Rasool, a patient in a nearby hospital, and Nirmala Devi, an attendant of a patient in the hospital.
Responding to a query on the Army role in the operation, Saini said, “All forces were together.” He said he was thankful to the Army for its support.
Police suspect that the terrorists first placed five bombs on a railway bridge near Talwandi, 2 km from Dinanagar. They they headed to Dinanagar where they killed a kulchawallah, Amarjeet Singh, near the bus stand.
They waylaid a Maruti car and threw out its driver Kamaljit Singh before heading to the police station.
Dinanagar SHO Mukhtiar Singh, who was taken to Gurdaspur civil hospital with a bullet injury, said: “Ramesh Kumar, a councillor in Dinanagar, called me up early morning. He said some persons had opened fire and snatched a Maruti car from someone. I headed to the spot. The moment I reached there, I got a call from SSP Gurdaspur that terrorists had entered the police station.”
“By that time, the terrorists had entered the residential building of the Punjab Home Guards behind the police station. They had shot two policemen. Policemen returned fire from the rooftop of the police station,” he said.
According to police, the attackers first targeted a roadside eatery and took off in a white Maruti 800 with Punjab registration number. They shot dead a roadside vendor near Dinanagar bypass.
They opened fire on passengers of a moving Punjab roadways bus before targeting a community health centre adjacent to Dinanagar police station.
The gunmen barged into the Dinanagar police station and opened indiscriminate fire. The militants also targeted another part of the complex where the families of police personnel reside and hurled grenades.