Bangkok | Thailand has arrested a fugitive Sikh terrorist, convicted for life for his involvement in the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh and 17 others in 1995, police said today. Gurmeet Singh – alias Jagtar Tara Singh – was arrested in the eastern province of Chon Buri yesterday after raiding a house owned by a Pakistani national, Thai National police spokesman Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri said.
A 37-year-old former member of the Babbar Khalsa International Sikh separatist group, Singh had entered Thailand in October. He escaped from a high-security prison in 2004 in Chandigarh before being convicted for life in 2007. A team of provincial police and soldiers raided a house in Bang Lamung district and arrested Singh, one of six Sikh militants convicted for the 1995 blast, that also killed 17 others outside a government complex in Chandigarh.
During the raid, officers also arrested Pakistani national Ali Alat, the owner of the house. Alat, 48, said he was not aware of Singh’s criminal background. The duo have been taken to Nong Phreu police station for interrogation. We had been following him for a while, but at one point he slipped off the radar, Prawut said. Singh could have been travelling on a fake passport as the police said the Pakistani terrorist faces extradition to India, sources here said.
The swift action followed a recent request by Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to Thai authorities to help capture the terrorist. Rijiju made the request when he visited Bangkok late last year for a UN meet. Last week, the national police chief had announced that a special unit would be set up to target transnational criminal gangs operating in Thailand or using the country as a shelter. Some foreign criminals and gangs consider Thailand to be a haven, including paedophiles, financial con men, electronic card skimmers, robbers, drug traffickers and terrorists.
Pol Maj Gen Nitipong Niamnoi, head of Chon Buri police, said Indian authorities had sought cooperation from Thailand, to help apprehend the suspect. The Indian government had been in touch with Thai authorities to nab Singh, who had been hiding in Thailand for months and probably under another identity. Beant Singh, who came to power as chief minister of Punjab in 1992 and began crushing the Sikh militancy, was killed in the blast claimed by the Khalistani Sikh terrorists.
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