Amarinder blames Pakistan; Punjab, Centre wake up to 'terror' call after Amritsar grenade attack (Roundup)

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Amritsar/New Delhi : Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said the Amritsar grenade attack on a prayer meeting of the Nirankari sect seemingly carried " Pakistan's signature", with initial investigations indicating that the grenade used was similar to the ones being manufactured by the Pakistani Army Ordinance factory.

Even as the Punjab and Central government on Monday separately took stock of the "terror act" in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday which left three people dead and 20 others injured, the Punjab Police said that different "leads" were being followed but the case was yet to be cracked.

The Chief Minister, who arrived at the grenade attack spot at the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan in Adliwal village of Rajasansi area of Amritsar district on Monday, said that a similar HG-84 grenade had been recovered from a terror module busted by the Punjab Police last month.

"This indicates a high probability of the involvement of inimical forces from across the border," he said.

"Prima facie, this appears to be an act of terror by separatist forces, organized with the involvement of ISI-backed Khalistani or Kashmiri terrorist groups. My government has taken serious note of the incident and is aggressively pursuing all angles of investigation," Amarinder told the media here.

The Punjab government on Monday announced Rs 50 lakh as reward for any information leading to the arrest of the assailants.

Captain Amarinder said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is also helping in the investigations. He said certain leads have been found by the police and the same are being investigated.

The Chief Minister said the grenade attack was a clear case of terrorism and there was no religious connection to it.

Amarinder said the attack could not be equated with the Sikh-Nirankari conflict in 1978 which led to the start of Sikh militancy in Punjab for the next nearly two decades.

"That was a religious matter and the Adliwal incident was purely a case of terrorism. Violence between the Sant Nirankari Mission and traditional Sikhs on April 13, 1978 at Amritsar had left 13 dead, and sparked the subsequent wave of terrorism in the state. Yesterday's (Sunday's) incident had no religious overtones, as per initial investigations," Amarinder said.

Asked to react to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader H.S. Phoolka's statement accusing the Army chief of orchestrating the Nirankari Bhawan grenade attack to prove himself right on the revival of terrorism in the state, the Chief Minister said the AAP leader is apparently "unstable".

Three persons were killed and 20 injured when two motorcycle-borne youths threw a grenade at a Nirankari congregation in a compound located in the rural belt of the district, about three kilometres from the Guru Ram Das Jee Amritsar International Airport.

All victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the weekly Sunday religious meeting.

Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal blamed Amarinder Singh and his government of being soft on Sikh radical elements which was leading to peace being disturbed in Punjab.

"I blame Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for playing into the hands of radical elements and anti-national forces. His government is soft on their activities," Badal said in Chandigarh.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday held a meeting in New Delhi to review the national security situation in the aftermath of Sunday's grenade attack in Amritsar.

The Home Minister met Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Intelligence Bureau Director Rajiv Jain, Research and Analysis Wing chief Anil Kumar Dhasmana and other senior Ministry officials, a day after assuring the Punjab Chief Minister of "strong action" against those responsible for the attack.

The Chief Minister visited the injured in the hospital here and announced a government job to next of the kin of the three people killed in Sunday's grenade attack.

The Punjab Police, which has remained clueless for the last over 30 hours regarding who carried out the attack, has formed several teams to investigate the grenade attack. CCTV footage of places near the blast is being scanned to know more about the two masked attackers.

Forensic teams and an NIA team reached the spot late on Sunday to investigate the attack. A three-member team, headed by an Inspector General, visited the spot for a second time on Monday after their initial inspection of the area on Sunday evening.

Inspector General (Border Range) S.P.S. Parmar told the media on Monday that the probe would look at all angles and police teams are trying to trace the culprits.

Punjab Director General of Police Suresh Arora, who rushed to the spot on Sunday along with senior officers, admitted that it was a "terror act".

The Punjab Police has drawn flak for intelligence failure regarding the attack despite the border state being on high alert since November 14 over reported movement of six to seven terrorists in the state.

Eyewitnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, with their faces covered, forced their entry into the sect compound by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate. There were around 200 followers in the compound at the time.

The Nirankari sect, with headquarters in Delhi, has millions of followers across the country and abroad.

In the last few months, Khalistani and Kashmiri activists have been trying to foment trouble in Punjab, which shares a 553-km barbed wire-fenced international border with Pakistan.

The state police, along with its Jammu and Kashmir counterpart, had busted two modules of Kashmiri students who were studying in institutions in Punjab and having links to terrorist outfits in troubled Kashmir. The Maqsudan Police Station was targeted by Kashmiri terrorists on September 14 with hand grenades though no one was injured in the attack.

Posters of Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Mussa had mysteriously appeared in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Friday saying that he had been seen in Punjab.

The Chief Minister said 15 terror modules have been busted in the past 18 months, including those with Kashmiri terror links.

Published : Monday, November 19, 2018 22:00 [IST]
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