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Punjab STF chief has narrow escape during shootout to nab men linked to arms haul

Sidhu was leading the team to arrest the men, believed to be five in number, in connection with STF’s recovery of a cache of arms from the Indo-Pak border in Punjab on September 24.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar | Published: October 2, 2019 6:11:40 am
The arms recovered earlier. (Express photo by by Rana Simranjit Singh)

The chief of Punjab Police’s anti-drug Special Task Force (STF), Harpreet Sidhu, had narrow escape during a shootout between alleged drug smugglers and STF sleuths at a roadside eatery near Jandiala Guru of Amritsar late on Monday evening. Sidhu was leading the team to arrest the men, believed to be five in number, in connection with STF’s recovery of a cache of arms from the Indo-Pak border in Punjab on September 24. According to the STF, the arms consignment was meant for these men, who were scheduled to meet at the eatery Monday.

A 15-member team of STF led by Sidhu was at the dhaba in civil clothes, waiting for the alleged smugglers to arrive.

“We had technical information that these smugglers were connected to recovery of weapons made by us on September 24. They had to reach this dhaba for a meeting. After finding themselves cornered, these smugglers were opened fire at our STF chief Harpreet Sidhu. The STF chief had a close shave when one of the accused opened fire at him. The STF chief also fired back in retaliation. Later, three smugglers were overpowered and arrested. Two others managed to flee the spot,” said STF Assistant Inspector General Snehdeep Sharma.

Those arrested on Monday have been identified as Sukhraj Singh, a resident of Gurdaspur, Bhupinder Singh from Amritsar, and Rajpal Singh of Jandiala town in Amritsar. Two pistols, 64 live cartridges and two magazines were recovered from the accused after the arrest.

In a joint operation, the BSF and the STF had recovered five AK -74 assault rifles, 220 live cartridges, 10 magazines and one automatic pistol, which were hidden near the Indo-Pak border. An FIR related to this recovery was filed at Mohali police station on September 24 and since then the STF has been looking for the men who were supposed to receive it.

The STF recovery had come just two days after the Counter Intelligence Wing of the Punjab Police had claimed to have recovered five AK-47 Rifles (along with 16 magazines and 472 rounds of ammunition), four Chinese made .30 bore pistols (along with eight magazines and 72 rounds of ammunition), nine hand grenades, five Thuraya satellite phones along with their ancillary equipment, two mobile phones, two wireless sets and Rs 10 lakh Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) on September 2.

While the Counter Intelligence Wing claimed that weapons were sent to Punjab through several drone sorties, the STF said that the consignment recovered by them was pushed across the iron fencing and recovered along the India-Pakistan border in Mamdot area of Ferozepur. The recovery was made in collaboration with BSF and the weapons were wrapped in Urdu news paper published in Pakistan, according to the STF.

Earlier on September 12, Jammu and Kashmir police had claimed recovery of weapons including six AK series rifles from a truck near Lakhanpur. According to the J&K police, the weapons recovered by them had come from Gurdaspur border in Punjab touching Pakistan. However, the Counter Intelligence Wing claimed that Amritsar and Tarn Taran border in Punjab was breached to deliver weapons. Now, the STF has claimed that the weapons were recovered from part of international border that falls in Ferozepur.

STF constable dies in exchange of fire with smugglers

Amritsar: A constable of the anti-drug Special Task Force (STF) was killed in an exchange of fire with smugglers in Punjab’s Amritsar district on Tuesday, police said.

An operation was launched by the STF’s Jalandhar unit to nab drug smugglers at Jania village in Jandiala town, Assistant Inspector General (AIG), STF, Rashpal Singh said.

The STF cornered the smugglers and indulged in hand-to-hand fight with them. At that time, a smuggler fired a gunshot that hit the neck of STF constable Gurdip Singh, he said.

Thereafter, there was a heavy exchange of fire between the STF and the smugglers, the official said, adding the smugglers managed to escape from the spot. Gurdip Singh was shifted to a local private hospital where he was declared brought dead, he said.

Later in the evening, two men involved in the killing were arrested by the Punjab Police.

“We’ve arrested two of the drug suppliers involved in the killing of STF Constable Gurdeep Singh in Jandiala (Amritsar), within 6 hours of the tragic incident. Parwinder and Harpreet are being questioned to ascertain their links with the drug mafia and details will be shared soon,” said Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta.

He added, “We will hunt down the other accused too and make sure Gurdeep’s sacrifice doesn’t go in vain. His killers will have to pay for their cowardly act. Punjab Police won’t be deterred in its fight against drugs by the drug mafia, which we remain committed to eliminating.” —ENS

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