Khalistan leader escapes from Indian jail


Patiala/Chandigarh—Khalistan Liberation Force chief Harminder Singh Mintoo and five other high-profile suspects escaped from an Indian prison early on Sunday after a group of 10 armed men wearing police uniforms stormed the facility.
At least two police personnel were injured during the jailbreak as the armed militants opened indiscriminate firing on the guards at Nabha Central Jail in Punjab before taking away the chief of Khalistan Liberation Force and five others, according to NDTV.
Harminder Singh Mintoo, 49, has been implicated in at least 10 terror-related cases, including an attack on Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim. He was rounded up from Delhi airport in November 2014 in a major breakthrough for Punjab Police’s crackdown on pro-Khalistan forces.
The other fugitives include Neeta Deol, Vicky Gonder, Amandeep Doda, and Kashmir Galwaddi. A reward of Rs 25 lakh has been announced for anyone who provides information about them.
The Punjab government on Sunday suspended the Director General (Jails) and dismissed the Nabha Jail superintendent and deputy jail superintendent and set up a special task force to look into the Nabha jailbreak incident.
“DG Jails has been suspended and Jail Superintendent and Deputy Jail Superintendent have been dismissed,” Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, who also holds the home portfolio, told reporters.
A manhunt has been launched to trace the prisoners who escaped, the Deputy CM said and added that a special task force has been formed to track them.
Sukhbir said a special investigation team under the ADGP rank officer has also been constituted which shall look into lapses as well as any conspiracy theories surrounding the jail break incident.
“Special Investigation team has been asked to submit report within three days in this regard,” he said.
The home secretary has also been asked to submit a report on the incident.
“Home secretary will give me a report on wherever any lapse has taken place. Whosoever will be found responsible in this incident, strict action will be taken against him,” he said.
The armed men, who reached the Nabha prison in two cars, reportedly attacked the first guard with a knife and forced their way into the prison. They fired over 200 rounds in the air and at guards before escaping with Mintoo and the other men.
According to Indian media, police in the Punjab have been put on high alert after the incident and searches have been launched to nab the suspects. The Punjab’s neighbouring states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have also been alerted.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister alleged that Pakistan, which he said was “desperate to revive terror” after the Army’s surgical strikes, “could be behind (the) jail break.
He added that state police were “ investigating (a) conspiracy between terrorists and gangsters to disturb peace in Punjab before elections.”
Punjab police are on high alert after the jail break, and a Special Investigation Team was formed. Punjab’s Director General of Police has travelled to Nabha jail to take stock of the situation.
The state borders with Haryana, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir have been sealed. The fugitives are suspected to have fled to Uttar Pradesh.—Agencies