A massive operation is underway in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh to locate at least three persons suspected to be terrorists who carjacked a white Maruti Alto after killing its driver.
The modus operandi employed by the six terrorists who stormed the Pathankot airbase early January this year was more or less similar. This has prompted authorities to sound a high alert in the all northern states, including the national capital, ahead of Republic Day on January 26.
Chandigarh too is on a heightened alert with French President François Hollande, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, visiting the city on Sunday.
According to the police, at least three suspects, possibly with arms, had hired a Maruti Alto car bearing a Himachal Pradesh registration number from Guggal in Kangra in HP for a trip to Pathankot.
On January 20, the police found the body of the car driver, Vijay in bounds of HP. The driver was strangulated to death. All agencies were alerted with apprehension that the suspects may have entered Punjab, or New Delhi. The police have found CCTV camera footage of the three suspects along with the car. The footage is being circulated to gain possible leads.
In the Pathankot terror strike, the terrorists first gained ground by hiring a car in Punjab and then killing it driver whose body was found later. The six terrorists further moved closer to the Pathankot airbase by carjacking the SUV of former Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh with the advantage of a blue beacon atop. The police and security agencies are unwilling to take chances given that the modus operandi appears to have similarities.
The worrisome part is that number of terrorists who had infiltrated from the across Pakistan border into Punjab around the new year’s eve, as altered by security agencies, is still unclear. Inputs suggest there could be 15 terrorists who may have infiltrated around that time. Six of them, who managed to strike terror at the strategic Pathankot airbase, were killed in the combine Army-NSG-Air Force operation. The apprehension is about the “missing” terrorists who may have gone into hiding only to strike at an opportune moment.