Punjab on terror radar?

By Jaideep Sarin and Parminder Singh Bariana, IANS,

Chandigarh : Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and pro-Khalistan groups based in Pakistan, Canada and other countries are planning strikes in Punjab, according to security agencies.

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Sources in Punjab Police, quoting intelligence inputs from central and state agencies, said that pro-Khalistan groups based in other countries, especially Pakistan, recently reached an understanding with the LeT “to resort to targeted killing of anti-Sikh and anti-religious elements in Punjab”.

Documents of intelligence agencies, accessed by IANS, reveal that the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) has reached an understanding with the LeT to carry out terror strikes in Punjab.

“Ranjit Singh Neeta of KZF has reportedly been entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out this task with the support of all Khalistani and Islamist groups including LeT,” the intelligence document has pointed out.

Incidentally, the Bhamial sector of Punjab’s border district of Gurdaspur has witnessed terrorist violence in the last 15 days. This is the first time that terror groups from Pakistan and Kashmir have done any activity in Punjab.

In the latest incident, two Pakistani intruders were gunned down by Punjab Police Sunday (April 24) in the Norat Jaimal Singh area of the district after a fierce gun battle that left two police personnel dead and one injured.

According to the Border Security Force and police, the intruders had infiltrated into India after two rockets were fired earlier (April 19) into the Indian territory from the Pakistan side.

The firing of rockets was followed by an improvised explosive device (IED) blast, suspected to have been carried out by miscreants with help from Pakistan’s border guards, Pakistan Rangers, in the Bhamial sector close to the electrified barbed-wire fencing erected by India along the Pakistan border in Punjab.

The incident was followed by a heavy exchange of fire by the BSF and Pakistani border guards.

Punjab has a 553-km-long international border with Pakistan which has been fenced with barbed wire on the Indian side.

“We have taken security measures in the affected area. Combing and search operations have been carried out in the Gurdaspur sector to see if any other terrorists had infiltrated into India,” BSF’s Punjab frontier deputy inspector general (DIG) Jagir Singh told IANS.

The latest intelligence inputs indicated that the terror groups’ targets in Punjab include heads of religious sects, including Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Members of the family of former chief minister Beant Singh, who was assassinated by a pro-Khalistan human bomb Aug 31, 1995, are also in the firing line of Pakistan-based pro-Khalistan terror groups who have now tied up with the LeT, the inputs indicated.

Punjab Police officials have been directed to ensure security for the people identified as prime targets of the terror groups in the latest intelligence communiqué.

A violent Sikh separatist campaign raged in Punjab for 10 long years before it was crushed in 1993 after the loss of about 25,000 lives. While Punjab has experienced peace since then, Khalistani separatists have once again become active in Pakistan as well as in some Western countries.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])