Nabha (Punjab): In a sensational jailbreak, armed men on Sunday attacked the maximum security Nabha jail in Punjab and escaped with two militants, including Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) militant Harminder Singh Mintoo and four gangsters, police said.
The attackers, dressed in police uniform, breached the tight security of the prison around 9am with at least 100 rounds fired during the well-planned and executed attack, jail officials said.
In a related development, police sources said officers fired at a vehicle on the Patiala-Cheeka road (towards Haryana) which did not stop at a barricade set up to catch the prisoners who escaped. Unconfirmed reports indicated there were casualties in the incident.
Jail officials told police that the attackers entered the prison premises by telling the outer security that they had brought a prisoner for verification. Their vehicles were allowed entry easily.
Mintoo, arrested in 2014 and with 10 cases against him, and another militant, Kashmir Singh Galwadi, were among those who escaped from the jail premises.
Mintoo had been to Pakistan a few times and had reportedly got training from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Gangsters Vicky Gonder, Gurpreet Sekhon, Neeta Deol and Vikramjit also escaped.
Punjab Director-General of Police Suresh Arora said in Chandigarh that he was rushing to Nabha.
The attackers, about 10-12 in number, entered the jail premises in two cars, including a Toyota Fortuner SUV. They breached the three-tier security ring easily.
Prison sources said the attack lasted for less than 10 minutes and the jail security failed to counter the attack. An SLR (self-loading rifle) of the jail security was taken away by the attackers.
The Punjab Police and security agencies have cordoned off the area and a massive search operation was launched to nab the escaped prisoners.
The attack took place when the prisoners were brought out of their barracks for breakfast and other morning chores, the jail sources said.
Witnesses said they heard several rounds of firing between 9 and 9.30am.
“I was going on my motorcycle when I saw 2-3 cars with armed men inside. They were firing in the air and were in police uniforms,” a villager told reporters near the jail premises.
Alleging connivance of the Badal government in the brazen jail break, Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh said “the incident had exposed a complete breakdown of law and order in the state, while triggering fears of revival of terrorism ahead of the assembly elections.
“The shocking manner in which the gangsters walked into the high-security jail and freed a dreaded Khalistani terrorist along with other convicts clearly shows complicity at the highest levels,” Amarinder Singh said.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, also the Home Minister, called an emergency meeting of top police officers to take stock of the situation.
The incident took place just two months before assembly elections in Punjab. It is seen as a major security breach and intelligence failure.
Several top militants, gangsters and criminals are lodged in the Nabha Jail, which has maximum security among Punjab prisons and is about 100km from Chandigarh.