After questioning Punjab police officer Salwinder Singh for more than 15 hours in the last two days, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday is likely to grill him jointly with his cook-cum-helper and the caretaker of Dargah Panjpir.
Salwinder has claimed that he along with his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma and helper Madan Gopal were ‘abducted’ by the Pathankot attackers while coming back from the Panjpir shrine on night of December 31.
“Investigators still don’t know whether Salwinder is stating the truth or not. Now his version of events will be compared with what Madan Gopal and Dargah Panjpir’s caretaker Som have stated. The federal anti-terror agency will confront them with each other in a joint interrogation session, which is likely to take place on Wednesday,” a senior home ministry official said, requesting anonymity.
The official added that Madan Gopal and Som have been summoned to Delhi.
While Salwinder Singh claimed that he was regular visitor to the shrine, the caretaker has said the senior police official came to the Dargah for the first time on December 31. Besides, Madan Gopal and Rajesh Verma had visited the shrine on the same day earlier as well, which the investigators have found very puzzling.
Salwinder’s conduct before his ‘abduction’ is under scanner. He had four mobile numbers. His cook keeps two mobile numbers.
“Post abduction and snatching of SUV by the terrorists, it is true that he informed his superiors about the incident, but he is yet to make a full disclosure on what exactly happened before the incident. That’s why confronting him with Madan Gopal and Dargah caretaker is necessary,” said a counter terror official.
Salwinder Singh on Tuesday was questioned by NIA sleuths for the second day in a row, his interrogations lasting more than seven hours. He was questioned for around eight hours on Monday.
As of now, Singh has been summoned under Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which is normally used for summoning witnesses. “
But NIA sleuths are still not satisfied with the answers given. Once his questioning gets over, investigators will take a call on whether he will be an accused in the case or a witness,” said the home ministry official.
Counter terror officials say Salwinder is being questioned about the involvement of drug cartels in the attack as it is suspected that terrorists’ weapons were brought into the country as part of a consignment of drugs.
The NIA sleuths are also examining similar kind of suicide attacks Jammu areas to check their similarities with the Pathankot attack.
Investigators have not also not ruled out the possibility of attackers getting inside help to enter air base. An air base employee was arrested last year on the charges of leaking information to an alleged Pakistani handler. The details of the case are being examined to see whether the information allegedly leaked by the air base employee had any bearing on the attack, said sources.