Sikh Militants Kill 31 in Apparent Revenge for Death of Leader
CHANDIGARH, India (AP) _ Sikh militants raided five villages early today and killed 31 people, most of them relatives of Sikh policemen, in an apparent act of vengeance for the death of a militant chief, police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the deaths.
Police said the victims were roused from their beds and shot in a four-hour killing spree. They believe the same gang of at least 10 to 12 militants went from village to village.
In a separate incident today, six unidentified militants shot two Sikh guards in Wadalaveeram, 14 miles north of Amritsar, then gunned down a Hindu policeman and his parents, said police officer Hari Ram Banga.
Two other victims were hospitalized in critical condition, he said.
The mass killings took place in the Sangrur district of Punjab, about 90 miles west of Chandigarh, an area where militants of the Babbar Khalsa International are active.
On Sunday, police said they ambushed and killed Sukhdev Singh Babbar, one of the founders of the Sikh militant movement in Punjab in the early 1980s and the leader of the Babbar Khalsa.
Today’s raid could be seen as a signal by the militants that the Sikh insurgency would not be extinguished by Babbar’s death.
Police officer Ishwar Chandra said the bloodletting began in the village of Bhaktgarh shortly after midnight. The militants rounded up 14 men, herded them to the school courtyard, lined them up and shot them.
Six more people were killed in Khudi and three each in Gandasinghwala and Tibbha, Chandra said. The towns are within a few miles of each other.
Punjab police chief K.P.S. Gill said Sunday that Babbar’s death was a major victory in the fight against Sikh terrorism.
In the past two weeks, the top two commanders of the Khalistan Liberation Force, the largest of the militant groups, also were killed.
More than 2,500 people have been killed this year in separatist violence in Punjab.
Sikhs claim they are subject to political and cultural discrimination in India, which is 82 percent Hindu. They want a Sikh state in Punjab, where they are a slight majority. Nationwide, Sikhs are 2 percent of India’s 844 million people.