'All I Remember is a Blast and Smoke': Eyewitnesses Recount Horror After Amritsar Grenade Attack Kills 3
The grenade attack left three people dead and at least 15 injured, police said, adding that they were now treating it as an 'act of terror'.
Amritsar: It was a usual Sunday congregation at Amritsar’s ‘Nirankari Bhavan’ until nearly 200 devotees were pushed into chaos after a grenade attack killed three and injured over 15.
As two men on a motorcycle hurled a hand grenade in an apparent terror attack at the premises, from where messages of peace and spirituality are sent out, the devotees attending a religious congregation scrambled for safety, said eyewitnesses.
Recalling the scenes that followed the attack on "Nirankaris", the eyewitnesses said they were panicked, shocked and scrambled through a thick blanket of smoke.
"Each Sunday, I do 'sewa' at the Bhavan. I was on duty near the stage when I saw a person, who appeared young, with his face covered, throw something and run. The next thing I remember is that there was a blast, smoke all over and everyone ran around for their lives,” Simranjeet Kaur told reporters outside the premises.
A man said his daughter was deputed at one of the entry gates to frisk women devotees visiting the place. "She told me that two people came there and pointed a pistol at her after which she panicked. The next thing she knows that people were rushing out in fear after a grenade was hurled inside," he said.
A devotee who was inside the Bhavan said, "I saw blood at the spot after the blast. Although I did not see the attackers, I was told by other devotees that two youth had come on a motorcycle. They gained entry inside and hurled explosive and escaped. Both appeared to be youth with faces covered".
Another man, who identified himself as Gurpreet Singh, said he lives near the Bhavan, which is also close to the Amritsar international airport. "I was in my home when someone said a cylinder had burst at Nirankari Bhavan. When I reached there, I saw injured people being taken to hospital in ambulances," he said.
Pawandeep Singh, an ambulance driver, said he took many seriously injured to Guru Nanak hospital in Amritsar. Injured people were also rushed to a private hospital.
The grenade attack left three people dead and at least 15 injured, police said, adding that they were now treating it as an “act of terror”. DGP Suresh Arora said the attack "appears to have a terror angle... we will take it as a terrorist act."
The Ministry of Home Affairs has said that two turbaned youths threw a hand grenade at the religious gathering. There are "enough leads" and the probe is going in the right direction, the officials said. The Punjab Police had carried out "fantastic" investigations into the killing of seven RSS men in the past and the force is capable of unearthing the conspiracy behind similar incidents, another ministry official said.
Punjab was put on alert following an input claiming that a group of six to seven JeM terrorists were reportedly in the state, possibly in Ferozepur area. Four people had carjacked an SUV at gunpoint last week near Madhopur in Pathankot district.
The incident led to a political slugfest, with the SAD and the AAP attacking the Congress-led Punjab government for the "complete breakdown" of the law and order in the state.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal claimed that the law and order situation in Punjab had "deteriorated" immediately after the Congress came to power. He alleged that the Congress government was "encouraging" elements whose sole aim was to disturb Punjab's hard-won peace.
Unfortunately the present Congress government thinks politics weigh over peace, Sukhbir Singh Badal said in a statement here. "It is this thought which took Punjab into a dark era earlier. The present government needs to eschew this policy permanently for lasting peace in the state," he said.
SAD leader and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal took to twitter to attack Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. "First bombs and now grenade attack in #Amritsar, what next Raja saab? When will you and your ministers stop encouraging elements bent on disturbing hard-won peace? Stop playing politics and get down to serious governance. Punjabis don't want to go back into dark era," she said.
SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal condemned the attack. He alleged that the Congress rulers in the state had a tendency to "encourage, promote and flirt with enemies of peace for political mileage". "The growing violence in Punjab today is the direct result of the cynical political opportunism of the Congress party in the state and its hobnobbing with the enemies of peace," the former chief minister said.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also condemned the attack and questioned the law and order situation in the state. The situation has gone from "bad to worse" and the police and other agencies have "failed", AAP leaders Bhagwant Mann, Sadhu Singh, Harpal Singh Cheema and Budhram claimed in a statement.
Meanwhile, Congress legislator Raj Kumar Verka told reporters in Amritsar that the blast was a result of "failure" of the intelligence agencies. "They (anti-social elements) have again tried to foment trouble in Punjab but people of the state have always faced such a challenge bravely. We will deal with them (anti-social elements) with an iron hand.I am saying it is a failure of intelligence (agencies), be it of the state or the Centre," he said.
(With PTI inputs)
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