Fourteen criminals from different parts of Punjab chalked out a strategy to help Khalistan Liberation Force chief Harminder Singh alias Mintoo, his aide and four gangsters escape from the high-security Nabha jail on Sunday.
Palwinder Singh alias Pinda, 29, spearheaded the attack on the jail in Patiala district on Sunday morning along with more than 10 men, and freed Mintoo and the others.
According to the police, those involved in the jailbreak included Prema (Jalandhar), Harry and Gopi Gasarpuria (Batala), Baba, Mani (Mundki), Khan (Mangwal), Channa (Hoshiarpur), Sukhh, Gopi Kaira and two people from Chandigarh.
Palwinder told the police that Gurpreet Sekhon, who was one of the gangsters to escape in the daring raid, and Jalandhar-based gangster Prem Lahoria plotted the jailbreak, while he executed it. Sources told Hindustan Times that Sekhon and Lahoria also involved Khalistan Liberation Force militants, who promised funds to them.
Lahoria assigned the task to Palwinder.
Palwinder was arrested at Kairana town of Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district on Sunday evening while heading to his hideout at Sahastradhara Road Road in Dehradun. Police recovered four rifles, 444 live cartridges of 12, 315, 32, 38 bore and a self-loading rifle, two walkie-talkies, four mobile phones, fake IDs and an SUV from his possession.
Senior police officers from Punjab and UP and intelligence officials interrogated Palwinder, who disclosed that 14 people were involved in the plan that was hatched in Mundki of Punjab’s Ferozepur district.
According to their plan, four people arrived at Nabha jail in police uniform holding one of their aides as a decoy criminal they wanted to “handover” to the jail authorities. Five others accompanied them as visitors to meet jail inmates.
They arrived in four vehicles and broke into the jail, held prison guards hostage and opened fire in the air before freeing Mintoo and five others. They used self-loading rifle, Springfield gun, pistol and other weapons and fired over 200 rounds to create panic before fleeing with the six prisoners.
The audacious attack lasted not more than 10 minutes, indicating the attackers were familiar with the jail layout and routine. One of the gangsters who escaped had planned the operation, Palwinder told the police.
They broke the police barrier in Haryana’s Kaithal and then dispersed from Panipat, which is 85 km from Delhi. Mintoo took a bus to Delhi while Palwinder drove towards Kairana to go to Dehradun, where he stayed after he escaped from police custody in Patiala on March 28.
While addressing the media in Shamli on Monday, IG (Meerut zone) Ajay Anand and Saharanpur range DIG JK Shahi said Palwinder was wanted by Punjab police in different cases under the Arms Act, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, for firing at the police and helping hardcore criminal Dilbag Bagga to escape from police custody in 2009 and the murder of ASI Gurudev Singh in Patiala in 2013.
He was arrested and sent to Nabha jail on charges of killing the ASI. It was there that he met Mintoo and druglord Prema, who helped him escape from police custody in March 2016 when he admitted in hospital for treatment. In return, they asked Palwinder to plan the escape of Mintoo and the other criminals from Nabha jail.
So far Palwinder has been accused of stealing five cars from Ludhiana, Jeerakpur and Mohali in Punjab and using them for committing crimes. He was also involved in the robbery of 2kg of gold and Rs 10 lakh in cash from Model town locality of Ludhiana.