Nabha jailbreak: cops nab bigwigs Mintoo and Penda, but five still at large
Questions still remain on how six high-profile criminals escaped the high security Nabha prison near Patiala in Punjab. However, within 24 hours of the sensational jailbreak, the Delhi Police Special Cell has arrested Harminder Singh Mintoo, the dreaded chief of the Khalistani Liberation Force, which he formed after defecting from Babbar Khalsa International.
Mintoo, who was also said to be in touch with the Pakistani ISI, was arrested from the parking lot of the Nizamuddin Railway Station in New Delhi after the Special Cell was tipped off by agencies about his movements.
Mintoo's arrest came hours after the UP Police managed to nab Parminder Singh Penda, the mastermind of the jailbreak, in Kairana. While Penda is said to be a criminal, part of the drug smuggling mafia, he also has connections with families of Khalistani militants. Penda is said to be an accused in several cases with Jagdish Bhola, a wrestler-turned-former police officer-turned-drug smuggler.
Penda had run away from the same jail in 2014.
The UP Police claims that Satnam Kaur, a woman who was arrested for dealing in drugs with Penda earlier, is the daughter of a Khalistani militant, who had several cases against him.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police is said to be on the lookout for Kashmir Singh, another Khalistani militant, who too was part of the group of six criminals who managed to escape Nabha jail. Kashmir Singh, according to reports, is suspected to be hiding in Delhi. Three other gangsters also continue to be at large, making things complicated for Punjab, which is set for Assembly elections early next year.
The plan that went awry
Arvind Deep, Special Commissioner of the Special Cell, revealed how Mintoo, after escaping from the prison, had trimmed his long flowing beard to evade the security agencies.
Mintoo was arrested with a pistol, six cartridges and cash, and has been sent to week-long police custody by the Patiala House court. A rail ticket to Panvel was also recovered from him, and the police claims that he planned to travel to Mumbai and from there to Goa before running away to Nepal.
Interestingly, it was the UP Police which made the first major breakthrough in the case hours after the incident. According to a senior police officer in Shamli, the police received a tip-off about a Toyota Fortuner SUV, which was used for the ferrying the escapees from Nabha.
While a total of four cars were used, it was the Fortuner which showed up at a police check post in Kairana, close to the Haryana border. "The policemen on duty figured it was the same car because of the colour and the number plate," the police officer said.
To the surprise of the cops on duty, it was Penda, the mastermind of the jailbreak, who was driving the car. "We found two rifles looted from the prison, two other rifles, including a springfield pump action gun, and a huge cache of live ammunition of .12 bore, .30 bore, and the banned .38 bore revolver cartridges," said the officer.