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HP encounter: Pistols seized from carjackers raise big questions, say Mohali police

The pistols were allegedly used by the accused to fire at Mohali cops who chased them 100 km to Naina Devi in Himachal Pradesh after they snatched a car from Kharar near Mohali in Punjab.

punjab Updated: Jul 17, 2018 10:05 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mohali
HP encounter,Mohali police,Himachal Pradesh
SSP Kuldeep Singh Chahal and other officers with two of the arrested accused and seized pistols at a press conference in Mohali on Monday.(HT Photo)

Two days after police recovered a toy gun from an alleged gang of carjackers, of whom one was killed in an encounter and two others on Saturday, cops are focusing on how they had procured the two Chinese pistols recovered from them.

These .30 bore pistols were allegedly used by Samuel Masih alias Sunny, who was killed, Goldy Masih and Amanpreet, to fire at Mohali cops who chased them 100 km to Naina Devi in Himachal Pradesh after they snatched a car from Kharar near Mohali. Though these weapons are now not the most popular with criminals, Punjab is no stranger to these pistols as these were used by Khalistani militants in 1980s and ’90 and sourced from Pakistan. It is suspected that the carjackers procured these pistols from someone in Punjab or from Jammu and Kashmir, where they used to sell the stolen vehicles.

“The carjackers fired at us from what we call Chinese star pistols (in common police lingo). These weapons were commonly used in Punjab during the terrorism days and were supplied from Pakistan,” said Ramandeep Singh, deputy superintendent of police (DSP), Mohali (city), who was part of the encounter team.

Sunny belonged to Gurdaspur district, as does Goldy, while Amanpreet is from of Morinda in Rupnagar.

“The bullet for these pistols is larger than usual, and 11 bullets can be loaded in a magazine. These were used mostly between 1989 and 1993, and have not been recovered often since then, though we have recovered .30 bore countrymade pistols,” the DSP further said. “The ‘star’ pistols are not available with every weapon seller, and can be obtained either through resale or auctioning by police,” said another who did not wish to be named.

“We are probing if these men were working for a particular gang as the weapons recovered from them are very sophisticated and deadly,” said Kuldeep Singh Chahal, senior superintendent of police (SSP), Mohali.

The Himachal police is investigating the case so far by visiting some places as per the information gathered from two of Sunny’s arrested aides, to corroborate the event.

“We have found that the carjackers used to take vehicles from Punjab to sell in Jammu and Kashmir,” said the SSP. DSP Ramandeep Singh said, “The Maruti Ritz (with which the men intercepted a Verna that they took away) was taken on rent of Rs 1,200 per day. They planned to sell the Verna in Jammu and Kashmir.”

‘Sunny fired first’

Meanwhile, SSP Chahal said the carjackers, specifically Sunny who was shot dead, “fired first”, and that the cops only retaliated.

Chahal, addressing a press conference in Mohali, stressed, “We fired in self-defence.”

The family of Sunny has been claiming that he was innocent and was killed in a fake encounter. The sub-divisional magistrate of Bilaspur (Naina Devi falls in this district) is conducting a judicial inquiry into the encounter.

Chahal added, “Even the complainant Navneet (whose Verna car was snatched) has said that it was Sunny who fired to scare them.”

As per the family, Sunny had left home on July 11, stating that he is going for job interview at a highway toll plaza. As for the family claim that Sunny was never summoned by the police, Chahal said, “A team from Himachal Pradesh had raided his house in Gurdaspur about five days ago.”

‘Goldy Masih the kingpin’

Though he has studied only up to Class 10, Goldy Masih, the alleged kingpin of a carjackers’ gang that had a shootout with police on Saturday, is referred to as “doctor” by fellow criminals.

Belonging to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district, he was one of two men arrested after the encounter with Mohali police at Naina Devi in Himachal Pradesh wherein their accomplice Sunny Masih was killed.

The “doctor” moniker comes from the fact that he used to run a shop of “desi dawai” (traditional medicines) at Doraha in Ludhiana. “He is the kingpin of the gang of carjackers who used to sell the vehicles in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Kuldeep Singh Chahal, senior superintendent of police (SSP), Mohali, addressing a press conference on Monday. He came out of jail on bail in June this year. “He is a matriculate who sold powdered homoeopathic medicines as ‘desi dawai’ at his shop which has a ‘samadhi’ (grave/memorial) of a ‘baba’ (old man/mystic).”

He said all the accused, Sunny, Goldy, Amanpreet, Sanju and Varun Sood, knew each other. “Sanju, whose real name is Jasvir Singh, is Goldy’s cousin and Varun came in touch with Goldy as his mother used to take medicine from him.” Police also arrested Sanju and Varun, from whom the Maruti Ritz car used in the crime — snatching of a Hyundai Verna that triggered the chase and encounter — was recovered. They were produced before a court on Monday and remanded to four-day police custody.

About the modus operandi of the gang, Chahal said, “They first used to steal RCs (registration certificates) of vehicles and then prepare fake number plates which they used to dodge police. The used to lift only those model of vehicles whose RCs were available with them.”

“They used to get the number plates prepared from Phagwara. A fake RC was recovered from Sunny’s pocket after the encounter,” added Chahal.

A team of Himachal Police recovered the original number plate of the stolen Verna from fields near a dhaba in Kharar. Police said the men changed the number plate near Kharar after snatching it from the Landran-Banur road.

As per the police, before taking away the Verna from Landran-Banur road, the men had liquor in the car at Kharar. “Sunny and Amanpreet had stepped out of the Ritz car along with Goldy when they snatched the Verna. Sunny and Amanpreet were carrying weapons while Goldy was armed with an iron rod,” added Chahal.

He said Sanju and Varun left with the Ritz car while Goldy, Amanpreet and Sunny took away the Verna and were chased down by cops.

First Published: Jul 17, 2018 10:04 IST