Probing theft, police find an arsenal

April 21st, 2008 - 2:32 pm ICT by admin  

Chandigarh, April 21 (IANS) A retired Punjab police official who illegally kept an arsenal of arms and ammunition in his home here fearing threats to his life has landed in jail. But his cache of weapons failed to prevent a simple theft in his house. The police arrested retired superintendent of police Surinder Singh Atwal from his bungalow in Sector 15 Sunday night after it stumbled on his arsenal of arms while investigating a theft in the former police officer’s house.

Officials probing the theft of jewellery and other expensive things from the house of Atwal Sunday morning said they were “shocked” to see prohibited weapons lying strewn in Atwal’s house.

The weapons seized included an AK-47 automatic assault rifle, 1,351 cartridges of the weapon, a .38 bore revolver (which is also a prohibited weapon) with 18 rounds, 168 cartridges of a 9 mm pistol (prohibited bore), seven empty magazines and an empty drum of AK-47, 95 rounds of a self-loading rifle and a .303 rifle with 59 rounds.

“It seemed the police officer was preparing for a war. He kept arguing that he had kept the weapons for his defence as he perceived a threat to his life,” a police official who searched Atwal’s house told IANS.

Atwal was posted as superintendent of police in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district and was actively involved in counter-terrorism operations. He was posted in the terrorist strongholds of Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Majitha and Ferozepore during the years when terrorism was its peak in Punjab (1982-95).

Police officials say that Atwal admitted that the weapons recovered from his house were seized from terrorists. But he did not deposit these with the police.

The tip about the illegal arms were provided to the police by his personal security officer Ram Lal, who was arrested Sunday morning after Atwal accused him of the jewellery theft Saturday night. When the police questioned Lal, he told them about Atwal’s arsenal.

“We have booked Atwal under the Arms Act,” Senior Superintendent of Police S.S. Srivastava said.

Lal committed the theft in Atwal’s house Saturday night when the latter was away for his son’s wedding. The stolen jewellery was recovered from Lal’s room in the same house.

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