- 2 men, with faces covered, came on motocycle and attacked: eyewitnesses
- Punjab Police has called Nirankari prayer hall attack a "terrorist act
- Police was on alert after input on presence of Jaish terrorists in Punjab
It was morning as usual at the prayer hall of the Nirankari spiritual group in the town of Rajasansi in Amritsar district. Around 250 followers had gathered for Sunday prayers when, according to eyewitnesses, two men arrived on a motorcycle and threw a grenade at them. The attack, which has been described by the police to be a "terrorist act", left three dead and several injured.
"My daughter who comes here to offer services said that two men with their faces covered with a rumaal (kerchief) came when she was frisking women and threatened her with a gun. She got scared and stepped aside. The men went inside, opened fire and threw an explosive. A lot of people were injured," a man said.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has appealed for peace after the terror attack. "I appeal to the people of Punjab to maintain peace in wake of Amritsar bomb blast. I urge them not to panic and to remain calm. We will not let the forces of terror destroy our hard earned peace," Captain Singh tweeted.
"It (this incident) appears to have a terror angle. Because it is against a group (of people) and it is not against any individual. There is no reason to throw a hand grenade on a group of people, so we will take it as a terrorist act. Till proven otherwise, prima facie we will take it as that," Punjab Director General of Police Suresh Arora told news agency PTI.
Punjab Police was on alert after an intelligence input last week that "a group of 6-7 JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammad) terrorists are reportedly in Punjab (possibly in Ferozepur area) and are planning to move towards Delhi from Punjab side".
Chief Minister Singh announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of those who died in the attack.
Political parties across the spectrum, except the Shiromani Akali Dal, condemned the Nirankari prayer hall attack. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Sunday spoke to Punjab Captain Singh and took stock of the situation. He said he was deeply anguished by the deaths.
Spoke to the Chief Minister of Punjab, @capt_amarinder ji who has apprised me of the situation in the wake of grenade attack in Amritsar. Strongest possible action will be taken against the perpetrators of this crime. 2/2— (@rajnathsingh) November 18, 2018
Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "Cowardly act. We strongly condemn it."
Randeep Singh Surjewala of the Congress tweeted, "Strongly condemn the blast in Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar. Deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives."
Union Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal lawmaker Harsimrat Kaur Badal and her husband Sukhbir Singh Badal attacked the state government. "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," Ms Badal tweeted.
(With inputs from PTI and AFP)
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