The Punjab Police are learned to have detained two men for questioning for their suspected role in the RPG attack at the state intelligence wing headquarters in Mohali. Those detained hail from the border districts of Tarn Taran and Amritsar.
Meanwhile, ammunition experts from the Army have given key inputs to the police regarding the manner in which the weapon was used.
The inputs were shared after an Army team examined the surroundings of the Punjab intelligence headquarters building in Mohali, which was targeted using an RPG on Monday night.
The two men detained by the Punjab Police have been identified as Sonu, a resident of Amritsar, and Jagroop Singh, a resident of a Tarn Taran village who was out on parole in a murder case.
Both are suspected to have provided logistics support to the attackers.
A third suspect, Nishan Singh from Tarn Taran’s Kulla village, was Wednesday arrested in a separate case by the Faridkot police, and is likely to be brought on production warrants to Mohali, sources said.
Sonu is Nishan’s brother-in-law. Sources added that Nishan Singh was booked in as many as 13 cases between August 2012 to January this year for offences including murder, attempt to murder, drugs. He was released from Faridkot jail around two months ago after acquittal in one of these cases. A police official said he continues to face trial in several other cases.
A Delhi Police special cell team also visited the spot Wednesday. Mohali police, meanwhile, has beefed up security of all important installations in the district, including the district courts, district administrative complex, the BSF Complex. Police sources said that more CCTV cameras were installed at sensitive spots.
A police statement said, “CCTV footage is being extensively analysed to find out more about the suspects involved. Forensic experts are being roped in to further develop on clues regarding the case. Raids have been conducted across state and possible suspects are being rounded up and questioned.”
With these developments, the focus of the probe has shifted to the state’s border belt which is prone to smuggling of weapons and explosives from across the border.
On Tuesday, the missile launcher used in the attack was found within the radius of 500 metre from the attack site. It was spotted by a woman grazing cattle in the area.
“It has been given to the forensic team to examine it,” a police officer said.
Police is also claiming “solid leads” in the wake of Army ammunition experts finding crucial clues at the site of the attack after their visit Tuesday night.
Led by an officer of the rank of Colonel, the eight-member team from the Army Ordnance Corps, who are experts in these sort of weapons, found the place from where the RPG was fired at the building.
The team was sent by the Headquarters, Western Command, in Chandimandir on the request of the Punjab Police.
The Army ammunition experts were also able to locate some residue of the projectile which had been fired from that particular spot. Based on the location from where the RPG was launched they were also able to calculate the trajectory and the angle at which it had been fired at the building.
Sources say that the projectile exploded after hitting the building and only some fragments landed inside through the damaged window. It has been assessed that had the projectile been fired through the window the damage would be severe and may have caused fatalities if anyone was present inside at the time.
Further investigations into the matter are being undertaken by the Army experts based on the firing tube of the RPG recovered from another spot in Mohali.
There have been RPGs from recovery from militants in Jammu and Kashmir by the Army in the past. In August 2021, a militant holed up in Kulgam in south Kashmir had been found to have used RPG against drones of the security forces.
During the Punjab militancy, RPG was found to have been used by the militants against security forces in Operation Blue Star in June 1984. Later in 1988, RPG-7 was found to have been used by the militants in Kathunangal, Majitha and Phagwara.
The RPG is a weapon of Soviet origin and the initials stand for the Rucknoy Peotivotankovvy Granaromyot (RPG) which roughly translated means a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher. It is a portable, shoulder fired weapon which is easy to operate and can cause widespread damage whether used in an anti-personnel mode, against armoured vehicles or against buildings.
There are different versions of the RPG which are designed as per the usage of the weapon with varying capacity of the warhead, effective range and penetration levels of the weapon.
While only a detailed forensic analysis of the weapon recovered at Mohali can reveal its exact nature, but on first look experts have found it to resemble an RPG PG-22 Netto version.
This kind of RPG consists of a front loading tube from which it is fired and can inflict severe damage up to 200 metres of range with a total effective range of 250 metres. The projectile can penetrate 400 mm of armour, 1.2 meters of brick or 1 meter of concrete.
The Indian Express spoke to several retired and serving officials of the Army and the Punjab Police to know the training and logistical needed to carry out such an RPG attack.
Lieutenant General TS Shergill (retd) said: “Training simply to fire an RPG need not take more than a day. To fire effectively, at least a week’s training on a simulator and some live training is required. If these RPGs came by drones, it is unlikely that simulators and live firing may have been possible. Therefore, the inaccuracy (as RPG missed the target and hit the wall).”
A senior Punjab Police officer said that had the RPG hit the glass window, the damage would have been severe. The officer said, “If explained and taught how to assemble it, any first-timer can fire it. Anyone who can fire from a rifle can fire from RPG. The only difference is that rifle’s back end is placed between shoulder and neck and RPG is placed above the shoulder.”
The officer added that an RPG is mostly RL (recoil less) and if at all there is recoil, it is very slight. He also pointed out that it was impossible to fire RPG from inside the car (in which assailants are believed to have fled), as it releases around four feet backward flames.
“One has to have his feet apart, kneel or lie down to fire it,” he added. The officer further said, “Though the attackers weren’t good at aiming for the targeted area, but what is more worrisome that they were confident that they would get away after carrying out the attack.”
MPS Aulakh, who served in the intelligence wing of Punjab Police and retired as DGP (Prisons) in 2005, said, “Not much training is required to fire from an RPG. Some briefing on its use is sufficient and it can be fired by placing over the shoulder. There was an instance or two of RPG use during insurgency in Punjab.”
A police officer said there were several videos on how to assemble and use the RPG available on the web.