Six gunmen in police uniforms and a phony police jeep broke through heavy security Friday at a police headquarters building in Punjab state and tried to kill the official who is directing the government campaign against Sikh terrorism.
Their intended victim, Julio F. Ribeiro, the director general of police in Punjab, was only slightly wounded, but one of the policemen guarding him was killed.
Ribeiro’s wife and four other policemen were also wounded in the hail of fire from the assailants’ automatic weapons. More than 50 rounds were fired, according to the Press Trust of India, a news agency.
The attack, in the Jalandhar district in central Punjab, came a day after an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in New Delhi. The police have now identified the gunman in that incident as Karamjit Singh, 26, of Sangrur, a town in Punjab where Sikh separatist terrorists have been active for the past four years.
Karamjit Singh is a common Sikh name, although some Hindus, the Jat and Rajput people, also use it. The man held in the assassination attempt, however, was clean-shaven and did not wear the jewelry and clothing required of orthodox Sikhs. They are not permitted to cut their hair or trim their beards, and must wear metal bracelets and a hairpin and carry a special knife, a kirpan.
The Press Trust of India quoted sources in the Central Bureau of Investigation as saying that the suspect had confessed.
“I wanted to kill the prime minister,” the agency said he told investigators.
A police spokesman said the man fired three times with a crude single-shot handgun. Prime Minister Gandhi was not hurt.
Gandhi said Friday that the attacks were the consequence of the government’s anti-terrorist efforts.
“I have said it earlier and I repeat it,” he said. “The more successful we are against the terrorists, the more dramatic attacks they will try. . . . This is a phase the country will have to go through.”
At least five police officials have been suspended as a result of the attempt on Gandhi’s life.
Ribeiro, the police official in Punjab, said he will investigate security lapses in the Jalandhar police compound. The gunmen apparently were not stopped as they entered, in a jeep with hand-painted police markings.
“I am not so much concerned about the attack on me as I am about the security lapse,” Ribeiro said. “The whole matter will have to be given fresh thought. It is a serious breach in security.”
There were dozens of policemen in the compound at the time of the attack, but the assailants all managed to escape in a waiting truck.