Bathinda, Apr 12 (PTI): Four personnel of an Army artillery unit were killed in a firing incident at the Bathinda military station in Punjab early Wednesday.
The Punjab Police, which is investigating the matter along with their military counterparts, said according to the information gathered so far, the incident was not a terrorist act.
The four personnel, in their mid 20s, were sleeping when the firing took place around 4:30 am near the barracks behind a mess.
The Army said it deployed quick reaction teams and cordoned off the area.
It is learnt that Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande briefed Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the matter.
Bathinda Superintendent of Police (Detective) Ajay Gandhi, who headed the police investigation, told reporters that 19 empty shells of INSAS rifle were found from the spot.
Quoting an Army jawan, Gandhi said two people in civilian clothes opened fire.
He said the slain jawans were identified as Sagar Banne (25), Kamalesh R (24), Yogesh Kumar J (24) and Santosh M Nagaral (25).
He said CCTV footage is being scanned and the Army is conducting a cordon-and-search operation and the entire area has been sanitized.
The police officer, however, said they still have no information on who opened fire, and added the matter is under investigation.
“Our investigation is going on jointly with military police,” Gandhi said.
“It has been ascertained that in the unfortunate incident, four army jawans of an artillery unit succumbed to gunshot injuries sustained during the incident. No other injuries to personnel or loss/damage to property have been reported,” the Army’s South Western command said in a statement.
It further said all aspects, including the possible case of involvement of an INSAS rifle along with 28 rounds reported missing two days back, are being ascertained.
When asked if it could be a fratricidal incident, Gandhi said, “investigations are on”.
Bathinda Senior Superintendent of Police Gulneet Singh Khurana said in the evening, “As per the information we have gathered so far, it is clear that it is not a terrorist act.”
Earlier in the day, Khurana, while referring to the incident, had said, “It is an internal issue, it appears to be fratricidal issue. Our investigation teams have reached inside (military station) with all forensic equipment and they are conducting investigations. In-depth investigations are going on.”
When asked if the incident could be linked to missing rifle, Gandhi said, “We are investigating whether there is link or not.”
Speaking to reporters, Bathinda Police Station Cantt Station House Officer Gurdeep Singh said nobody has been detained in connection with the incident so far.
Asked as to who fired the gunshots, he said they have no information in this regard.
When asked if an FIR has been lodged, the SHO said, We will lodge the FIR.
Further asked when police received the complaint about the missing rifle, he said they got the information on Tuesday evening.
The Army said the area continues to be sealed off and joint investigations with the Punjab Police are being coordinated to establish facts of the case.
Missing INSAS rifle found
An INSAS rifle that was reported missing at the Bhatinda Military Station where four soldiers were killed in a firing incident on Wednesday morning has been found, the Army said.
It was suspected that the missing rifle was used in the firing incident.
“A search team has located the INSAS rifle along with the magazine. Army and police joint teams will now be undertaking forensic analysis of the weapon for ascertaining further details,” the Army’s South Western Command said.
“The balance number of rounds in the weapon will only be available after forensic analysis. The joint investigation with Punjab Police is in progress,” it said.
After the firing incident, the South Western Command said in a statement that all aspects, including the possible case of involvement of an INSAS rifle along with 28 rounds reported missing two days back, are being ascertained.
The Army said no individual has been detained or apprehended for the killing.
All possible assistance is being provided to the police, it said.