In a sensational jailbreak, chief of Khalistan Liberation Front militant outfit Harminder Mintoo today escaped along with five other prisoners after armed men in police uniform stormed the high-security Nabha prison here, exposing "lapses" and raising doubts of possible collusion of insiders, with the Centre seeking an immediate report.
Punjab DGP Suresh Arora said that "the unidentified assailants came in police fatigues and were carrying small firearms." He said that they told police personnel deployed on jail premises that they were bringing a prisoner.
"Later, they fired indiscriminately and fled with six criminals, including a terrorist," he said, adding over 35 rounds were fire and there was no casualty among the jail personnel, who were allegedly taken offguard and did not offer any strong resistance.
"The firing was also done from inside the jail. We will see why the firing was not effective," the DGP said and added there is a "conspiracy somewhere".
"Had there been effective firing, it would have been the other way round," he said.
Punjab government sacked two senior prison officials, Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent, suspended ADGP (Jails) and formed an SIT to probe the jail break. It ordered a separate inquiry committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Jagpal Singh Sandhu to look into the "security lapses".
"There are two aspects. One is that the jailbreak will be probed and the second thing is lapses. Who is responsible, if there is any connivance?" the DGP said.
Those who escaped from the high-security prison included hardcore Khalistani militant Mintoo, who was arrested by Punjab police in November 2014 after he was deported from Thailand and was wanted in 10 terror cases.
Meanwhile, a woman, who was in an SHO's vehicle, died after being hit by a bullet when the police opened fire at her vehicle after it jumped a barrier about 20 km away from the prison. The incident occurred at a 'naka' on Patiala-Gulha Cheeka road, police said
After the jailbreak, security agencies in northern states were sent into high alert and Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. He sought an immediate report on the incident, besides directing the state to step up security in jails
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval spoke to Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal who apprised him of the details of the incident and steps being taken to apprehend the six absconders.
Sukhbir said Pakistan could be behind the incident as it was desperate to revive terrorism in the state post-surgical strike across LoC and vowed that the "conspiracy" will be unravelled soon.
The others who fled were gangster Vicky Gaundar, Amandeep Dhotian, Gurpreet Sekhon, Nita Deol and Kashmira Singh, who is also a terrorist.
The DGP said that the prisoners had fled towards Haryana.
Punjab government has announced a reward of Rs 25 lakh for any person who provides information leading to the arrest of the under-trial prisoners.
With Punjab going to polls early next year, the opposition Congress said the incident exposed the "complete breakdown of law and order" in the state and triggered fears of revival of terrorism ahead of Assembly elections.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)