Police Capture No. 1 Sikh Terrorist Leader
NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Police in the northern Indian state of Punjab captured India’s top Sikh terrorist leader, Dhanna Singh, the state police chief said today.
Police Director-General Julius F. Rebeiro also reported the arrest of Amrik Singh, head of a small but highly committed terrorist group. Amrik Singh had sneaked back into India after spending two years in neighboring Pakistan, he said.
Dhanna Singh, 32, was arrested late Sunday while he was traveling in an intercity bus in Kapurthala district, 215 miles northwest of New Delhi, Rebeiro said.
″This is a big catch ... This man was masterminding a lot of the violence,″ he said by telephone.
Dhanna Singh is the leader of a five-member presidium appointed by underground Sikh militants to take charge of the sect’s religious affairs and shrines. The five went underground April 30 after declaring the formation of ″Khalistan,″ an independent Sikh nation.
Amrik Singh, the other arrested extremist leader, was picked up early Sunday in a raid by police and paramilitary troops on his native village of Shahpur Goraya, 280 miles northwest of New Delhi, near the border with Pakistan, Rebeiro said.
The two are not necessarily related. All Sikhs take the same last name.
The men are expected to be held under the anti-terrorist laws which allow jailing for up to 18 months without specific charges or trial.
Government television said Amrik Singh, chief of the Akal Federation group, confessed to police interrogators that he directed the military training of Sikh dissidents in Pakistan camps for two years.
Pakistan denies training and arming Sikh rebels, but residents of border villagers in Pakistan say hundreds of Sikh youths have sneaked across the frontier to take up arms.
Dhanna Singh had emerged the most powerful leader of the underground extremists after the Aug. 9 capture of Manbir Singh, the self-styled general of the Khalistan Commonda Force.
The Commondo Force has claimed responsibility for most of the terrorist slayings in India since late 1984.
The Sunday capture of two extremist leaders capped a series of successes by security forces since they launched a statewide anti-terrorist offensive in Punjab last June.
So far, nearly 175 underground rebels have been captured or killed by security forces. Among them are almost half of the 36 extremists placed by Rebeiro in the category of leading terrorists.
Sikh militants have killed more than 650 people this year alone in an escalating terrorist campaign aimed at greater autonomy or independence for Punjab, home of the 13-million-member Sikh sect.
The growing terrorist violence has triggered the flight of thousands of Hindus from the Punjab countryside. It has increased national criticism of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s Punjab policy and spurred demands for the dismissal of the 14-month state government dominated by Sikh moderates.