Three persons were killed and 20 injured in a grenade attack on a religious congregation in Amritsar city on Sunday, an incident which the police are treating as a terrorist act.
The incident took place inside the Nirankari Bhavan at Adliwal village near Amritsar's Rajasansi, police said.
A religious congregation of the Nirankaris was being conducted inside the Bhavan at the time of the incident. The Sant Nirankari Mission is a spiritual organisation and the Bhavan here lies close to the international airport.
The grenade was lobbed by two persons who had come on a bike and had their faces covered.
The Director General of Police Suresh Arora, who along with senior police officers rushed to the spot, said the incident appears to be a terrorist act.
He said that three people had died in the incident and 20 others were injured, two of them seriously.
Inspector General of Police S S Parmar, who visited the incident spot, told reporters that about 200 devotees including many women were inside at the time of the incident. No CCTV was installed at the premises, preliminary investigations found, he said.
After the incident, the Bhavan was sealed by the police and security was stepped up at other "Nirankari Bhavans" in the state.
Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh said the possibility of involvement of ISI-based Khalistani/Kashmiri terror groups could not be ruled out.
Amarinder Singh said the state won't let the "forces of terror" to destroy the hard-earned peace.
Notably, Punjab had gone through dark days of militancy in the 1980s and early 1990s and faced few terror attacks in recent years including the one in Pathankot over two years ago.
After the incident, the Chief Minister asked the Home Secretary, DG Police, DG Law and Order, and DG Intelligence to immediately rush to Village Adliwal, Raja Sansi, to personally supervise the investigations into the grenade attack at Nirankari Bhawan.
Amrinder Singh has also directed the police to immediately enhance security arrangements at all sensitive places in the wake of the explosion.
Forensic teams have been rushed to the spot and all angles were being investigated, said the chief minister here, adding that the possibility of involvement of ISI-based Khalistani/Kashmiri terror groups could not be ruled out.
Singh said his government was on top of things and would get to the bottom of the incident soon and ensure that the culprits are apprehended and brought to book.
Nobody will be allowed to get away with trying to disturb the peace and harmony of the state, he warned.
The chief minister has also announced a compensation of Rs five lakh each to the kin of the dead and directed the district administration to provide the best possible medical care, free of cost, to the injured.
The chief minister said preliminary investigations had so far revealed that two men, one of them with a flowing beard, with covered faces, allegedly forced their way into the hall by brandishing a pistol. They detained the sewadar, lobbed the grenade into the prayer room, and fled on a motorcycle.
A small crater was formed by the impact of the explosion and was being examined by the forensic team. The safety valve of the grenade has also been found and was being examined, he said.
The chief minister has meanwhile appealed to the people not to panic and maintain peace and law and order. Let us remain calm, he said, adding the government would ensure there is no chaos in the wake of the incident.
Though the state had been hit by a series of cases of targeted attacks since 2015-16, this was the first attempt, in a long time, to disturb the peace in the state through indiscriminate killings, said the Chief Minister, adding it strengthened the belief that Pakistan was continuing with its nefarious activities to disturb the state's peace.
He pointed out that 15 such terror modules had been busted in the past 18 months, with Kashmiri terror links also indicated in some instances, as evidenced in the arrest of Kashmiri students from Jalandhar and in the Maqsudan police station grenade blast case.
Earlier, the DGP said that the incident appears to be a terrorist act.
It (this incident) appears to be 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 like that, Suresh Arora told PTI.
Notably, the grenade attack took place amid Punjab being on high alert following an input claiming that a group of six to seven JeM terrorists were in Punjab and were 'planning' to move to Delhi.
Moreover, the security agencies were also on alert after four persons snatched an SUV from its driver at gunpoint near Madhopur in Punjab's Pathankot district a few days back.
On Friday, Punjab police in Gurdaspur had even pasted posters of Zakir Musa, the chief of Jammu and Kashmir based Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind terror outfit with reported links to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
Army Chief Bipin Rawat had recently warned that attempts were being made to revive insurgency in Punjab and had even cautioned that people needed to be careful especially during the festival season to prevent anti-national forces from succeeding in their nefarious designs.