10 dead as terror returns to Punjab

Security forces personnel after an encounter with armed militants at Dinanagar, Gurdaspur on Monday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The firing stopped at about 4.15 p.m. with a short staccato burst of rifle fire. Outside the Dinanagar police station a loose cordon was formed as hundreds of Punjab police officials stood looking anxiously toward a three-storey red brick building inside the compound. They were joined by a small group of TV cameras and in their midst, strangely, was a Maruti 800, windshield riddled with bullet holes, standing just outside the station gate.

An officer said a search had begun to clear the area and check if the three suspected militants holed up in the station were dead. They were.

Seven persons were killed — one SP, three police officers and three civilians — in Monday’s “fidayeen” attack, the worst in Punjab in over a decade.

For the past two days, intelligence agencies had picked up “phone intercepts,” which suggested there were attempts to infiltrate from across the International Border (IB). In the intercepted conversation, the “callers discussed heightened vigil along the IB in Jammu sector.” While there was no direct reference to the Gurdaspur sector, where the attack took place, a senior official said, it took time to decipher the chatter.

A top Intelligence Bureau (IB) official said the attack had the modus operandi of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which operates from Pakistan. Police recovered Chinese made AK-47s, Chinese grenades and two GPS locators. While one GPS was damaged, intelligence agencies said they were scouring details from the other, which would reveal the route taken by the three “fidayeen” militants. The militants did not have any mark of identification on them and the army fatigues they wore had no tags.

Given the sudden nature of the attack there was evidently no time to erect a proper cordon. As a result, the 12-hour siege was witnessed by a grandstand crowd. About a thousand young men were gathered on the roofs of buildings that line the road opposite the station. From there you could see, for instance, a team of commandos in black uniforms searching the building, signalling to each other as they went from room to room. At 5.10 p.m., from the roof, two of them raised their hands and the signal was answered by the teams downstairs. From the roofs the assembled crowds broke into loud cheers. The siege was over. Locals said the violence started at about 5 in the morning.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 11:49:07 PM |

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