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On target: Punjab's dera heads


PHAGWARA: In what may have been a deadly strike barely two months after a blast in Ludhiana’s Shringar cinema hall that killed 6 and injured 25 others, the Punjab police on Thursday said they had foiled a terrorist attack with the arrest of three men carrying 7 kg of the killer RDX.

But of more concern to the police and administration are the targets the would-be assassins had set for themselves: heads of deras and other faith-based groups. This, top officers said, could have triggered a chain reaction among Punjab’s various communities and led to clashes reminiscent of those between Sikhs groups and Sacha Sauda followers early this year.

The three armed men, who sources said were actually in the custody of the Punjab police since last week, were carrying detonators to facilitate explosions aimed at Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh, Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthaan head Ashutosh and the controversial Baba Piara Singh Bhaniarewala. They were also in possession of maps showing locations of Ashutosh’s Ambala headquarter and Rahim Singh’s Sirsa den.

While one of the arrested youths, Gurinder, turned out to be a resident of Phagwara, the other two, Zorawar Singh and Parminder Singh, are from Mandi Gobindgarh and Amloh. Trying to join dots in the terror trail, police said the trio were accomplices of Gurpreet Singh, a man whose name cropped up during an RDX haul in Ghuman village, Ludhiana district, on September 2. At that time, cops had said that the explosives came in from Pakistan.

Kapurthala SSP Rakesh Aggarwal and Phagwara DSP HPS Khakh, while not saying anything about the accused being in custody for the past seven days, said a police party on Wednesday intercepted two motorcycle-borne youths on the Jandiala Phagwara Road. A search revealed that the pillion rider was carrying a bag containing RDX, wires and a mobile phone that was to be used as a detonator. Another packet with 2 kg RDX was recovered on his information from near his house in Phagwara.

"Gurinder revealed that he was returning from Nurmahal where he wanted to carry out a blast at the Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthaan dera but could not do that due to strict checking by police," Aggarwal said, adding, "Later, he told us about his two accomplices on their way from Hoshiarpur to Phagwara."

The others plan was to kill the Sacha Sauda head. For this they were carrying a bomb weighing 8 kg, another 1.3 kg of RDX along with 2 detonators, two timers, some rounds of AK 47, SLR and other bores. The men said they were "brainwashed into carrying out the operation by Gurpreet Singh, who is absconding and about whom very little is know."

Others on the hitlist were two SGPC members and All-India Anti Terrorist Front chief MS Bitta. "The (terror) network," Aggarwal said, "is probably 15-men strong and more arrests in this connection are likely to be made soon." Police said those arrested could have links with the Babbar Khalsa.
 
 
     
 
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