Chandigarh/Lucknow: Ten gunmen disguised as policemen stormed a high-security prison in poll-bound Punjab on Sunday morning, rained bullets at security guards before freeing top Sikh militant commander Harminder Singh Mintoo and five other gangsters.
Last month, eight Islamists awaiting trial escaped a prison in Madhya Pradesh before being gunned down hours later. Soon after the jailbreak, a 24-year old woman was killed in Punjab’s Samrala when the police, in a state of high alert, opened fire at a vehicle, which jumped a security barricade.
Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) chief Mintoo had been deported from Thailand and arrested in Delhi in 2014 on a string of terror charges, and his escape is a setback to anti-terror operations in the state, the police said.
Following the incident at Nabha city in the state’s Patiala district, the Punjab government sounded an alert, ordered a probe and sent special teams to nab the raiders and inmates who fled in cars. The attackers moved quickly through the complex, indicating they knew about the jail layout. Others who escaped include: Kashmir Singh, Vicky Gounder, Gurpreet Sekhon, Amandeep Dhotian and Kulpreet Neetu aka Neeta Deol. The SAD-BJP government suspended a top prison official and sacked two others amid criticism from the Congress and the AAP.
One arrested in UP for hand in punjab jailbreak
The Uttar Pradesh police swiftly arrested one Parminder, who had allegedly helped in Mintoo’s escape, from Kairana in the state’s Shamli district. The police recovered arms and ammunition from him.
The Punjab government announced a reward of Rs 25 lakh for information helpful in nabbing the raiders and escapees. Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal spoke of a Pakistan hand in the jailbreak.
Punjab battled Pakistan-backed Sikh militancy for a separate homeland for more than two decades till early 1990s. Mr Badal briefed National Security Adviser Ajit Doval about the incident.
The police said that Parminder, who was arrested from UP, had been taken to an undisclosed destination for questioning. He is a resident of Punjab’s Jalandhar district.
Timeline of major jailbreaks
Nov. 1, 2016: 8 Simi terror suspects, who escaped from the high security Bhopal Central Jail, were gunned down.
June 29, 2015: 2 Tihar jail undertrials escaped from one of the most high-security prisons in the country.
Oct. 1, 2013: 6 Simi operatives broke open the ventilator of their barrack in Khandwa jail and escaped.
Nov. 13, 2005: 137 inmates escaped from Jehanabad jail in Bihar after the Maoist attack on the town.
Aug. 8, 2002: 8 prisoners, two of them serving life sentences, escaped from Bettiah divisional jail in Bihar’s West Champaran district after scaling the jail’s wall.
Jan. 2001 earthquake: 270 ‘hardened criminals’ escaped from the Bhuj jail, considered the most impregnable in the state.