NIA steps up probe into terror attack, quizzes police officer

NIA steps up probe into terror attack, quizzes police officer

Seeking to unravel how the brazen Pathankot attack was mounted, the NIA today quizzed an SP rank officer who was allegedly abducted by the terrorists, recreated the scene of his abduction and visited the border village from where the perpetrators were believed to have sneaked into India.

A team of NIA, central agency created after 26/11 Mumbai attacks to probe terror-related cases, quizzed Salwinder Singh in Pathankot after he had earlier recorded his statement before the Punjab Police claiming five terrorists had kidnapped him, official sources said.

There were some discrepancies in the statement of Singh which were being looked into, the sources said. They said Singh was taken to the places he had visited before he, along with his jeweller friend Rajesh Kumar Verma and cook Madan Gopal, was kidnapped.

Singh, who is facing charges of alleged breach of discipline and was transferred recently as Assistant Commandant of 75th battalion of Punjab Armed Police, had claimed that he was returning from a temple at 11 PM when terrorists kidnapped him.

The NIA also recorded the statement of caretaker of the shrine who is believed to have told him that Madan Gopal and Verma had come during day time on December 31 only to return in the evening.

The caretaker was quoted in some television channels as having said that he was not aware about why Gopal, who happens to be his relative also, had come on two occasions that day.

The NIA plans to question Verma and Gopal again as there were some discrepancies in the account of the kidnapping incident that preceded the terror attack at Pathankot air force base given by all the three, sources said.

Singh had told Punjab Police in his statement that after he and his co-passengers were kidnapped, he was blindfolded. He claimed that the terrorists were speaking in Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu and Kashmiri. However, he got confused when he was made to listen to Kashmiri language and could not confirm if it was spoken by the terrorists.

A separate team of NIA visited Bamiyal village from where the militants are believed to have entered into the Indian territory, they said.

The NIA has sought the call details of Singh, his jeweller friend, Gopal besides Ikagar Singh, the taxi driver who was killed by the terrorists. It has also sought the location of mobile towers through which the signals for those calls were routed.

The NIA has registered three cases in connection with the terror strike at Pathankot IAF base.

The first case pertains to Singh's abduction and the second of killing of the taxi driver. Both the cases were registered at Narot Jaimal Singh Police Station in Pathankot district.

The third and the main case, registered at Police Station Division No. 2 Pathankot, relates to the terrorist attack on the Air Force Station.

A 20-member team of NIA led by an Inspector General- rank officer has been camping at Pathankot since January 2 to supervise the ongoing investigations.

An officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police has been appointed as the Chief Investigating Officer of the case.

The NIA registered the case under various sections of Indian Penal Code, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Arms Act against unknown persons, official sources said.

The Pathankot IAF facility, located near the border with Pakistan, is the base for MiG-21 fighter planes and MI-25 attack helicopters of the Air Force.

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