In a major anti-terror operation, the Punjab police on Thursday claimed to have arrested a wanted militant from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, 15 years after he had reportedly escaped from Haryana police custody.
Allegedly trained in Pakistan by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and made head of a revived Khalistani group, Rattandeep Singh hails from Rohar in Jind district of Haryana, and was wanted in connection with the 1999 bomb blasts at Chandigarh Passport Office and a railway bridge at Panipat.
Arrested on Wednesday, he also faces charges of involvement in planting an IED (improvised explosive device) on the railway track on the Shahabad-Markanda bridge, and was wanted in a case of recovery of arms and explosives in Jind. He had escaped from police custody in 1999 after firing at Haryana cops, officials said.
Rattandeep was produced in an Amritsar court on Thursday and it remanded him to 10-day police custody.
Following leads gathered from militants nabbed in the past year, this is being seen as yet another operation planned by Punjab director general of police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini and additional director general of police (ADGP), intelligence, HS Dhillon. A central agency was also part of the execution. “Peace in the state is our first priority,” DGP Saini told HT after the arrest. The arrest comes after the Punjab police in February last year nabbed top militant Narain Singh alias Chaura following an eight-month operation. The ISI had sent Chaura to attempt revival of terrorism, it is alleged.
Police said that in July 2014 the ISI planned to revive the Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan (BTFK). “Colonel Sahbaz Minhas of the ISI held joint meetings with Wadhawa Singh (of Babbar Khalsa International) and Rattandeep Singh to put in place the new arrangement, and the ISI hand-picked Rattandeep to head the BTFK,” police said. As the new head of the revived BTFK, Rattandeep sneaked into India ostensibly to carry out terrorist strikes particularly during the festive season, police officials said.
What the police claim about the arrested ‘militant’
In 1992-93, Rattandeep reached Pakistan via Thailand and then Germany on forged passport Arrested on May 9, 1996, while sneaking into India through Samba sector in J&K In 1999, he escaped custody of Haryana police Masterminded June 30, 1999, bomb blast at Sector 34, Chandigarh, and escaped to Pak Again came to India via Nepal in April 2010 for strikes in Punjab In May 2010, planted a bomb in a car near Circuit House, Amritsar, and escaped to Pakistan.
‘Based near Lahore, trained by ISI near Islamabad’
Rattandeep Singh, the alleged militant arrested by the Punjab police from UP, is a top operative of the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) and subsequently joined hands with the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), becoming the “operational head” of the outfit, according to a Punjab police dossier.
Based near Lahore and wanted in several offences in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, Rattandeep had been living in Pakistan since 1993, police said. “He had been coming to India to carry out strikes.
He recently re-entered to carry out a major strike,” police said.
He was allegedly the kingpin of a group of militants who had planted explosives in a vehicle at Amritsar near the Circuit House in May 2010; and for that purpose he had smuggled in a consignment of weapons and explosives from across the border. In that case, Pal Singh of France, Gurmukh Singh alias Ganna and Makhan Singh alias Amli have been sentenced to 27 years, 17 years and 10 years in jail, respectively, while Narain Singh Chaura, six others and Pak national Mohd Ishfaq are undergoing trial. Rattandeep and Chaura had absconded. Chaura was arrested in February 2013. With the arrest of Rattandeep, all operatives from the gang are in jail.
Before Rattandeep’s escape to Pakistan, police said, in March 1992 he went to Thailand, and then to Germany in May 1992. He shifted to Belgium in September 1992 and to Pakistan in March 1993 on a forged passport issued in the name of ‘Harjinder Singh, son of Laxman Singh, resident of Bholath (Kapurthala)’.
Police said he underwent arms training twice, in August 1993 and June 1994, in a camp located in a hilly terrain about 45km from Islamabad under supervision of ‘Pandey Khan of the ISI’.