The NIA has arrested 13 of the 14 suspects who were detained yesterday in simultaneous searches and raids conducted at 12 locations in six cities - Bangalore, Tumkur, Mangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Lucknow - yesterday, with support of local police, but remained clueless on the gruesome murder of a Himachal Pradesh driver by three unidentified men.
Despite raids on various locations and the arrests of several suspects, the police is still clueless about the vehicle and the three people involved in the gruesome murder.
On 14 January, three unidentified men had booked a taxi bearing No HP 01D 2440 from Gaggal, Kangra, Himachal Pradesh to Pathankot. The taxi driver Vijay Kumar had agreed to drop the passengers for a very nominal fare, police sources said on Friday.
Except for the police description of the suspects as Punjabi speaking and one of them having a limp, the images released by the police are not recognisable, sources say.
Himachal police, on the other hand, ruled out a terror link to the killing of the driver, although national agencies suspect them to be terrorists.
The taxi driver, however, allegedly had links with drug smugglers - something similar to the Pathankot incident – and the security agencies are linking the incident to a possible terror strike as Republic Day nears.
Another reason for suspicion is the IB alert, which had cautioned state police authorities that Islamic terror groups could launch a terror strike on Republic Day eve.
A day after the driver Vijay Kumar went missing, his maternal uncle and others informed the Kangra police of the incident on 15 January when Kumar did not return home.
Kumar's body was recovered from a ditch near a place called 32 Miles, a place is located on Shimla-Pathankot highway located at a distance of 35 km from Dharamshala, on 20 January.
Investigations revealed that the vehicle was not driven on the Pathankot road but on a link road, which indicate that the men who hired the taxi were headed somewhere else after killing Vijay Kumar.
"The taxi was booked on 14 January evening and had left Gaggal at 8:15 pm. We have sent three teams to Talwara in Hoshiarpur district and Pathankot in Punjab and Lakhanpur in Jammu and Kashmir to trace the vehicle and the people involved in the crime. We have also retrieved the CCTV footage from Gaggal Chowk which shows the three men with taxi," additional superintendent of police (ASP), Kangra, Vijay Saklani, said.
Kangra police is also investigating whether the three men stayed in a Mcleodganj hotel. The motive of murder is still not clear. It is also not clear if the killers have abandoned the vehicle somewhere or were heading to Punjab or New Delhi.
The alert issued by the Delhi Police has sent the Himachal police into tizzy as one of the theories now connecting to this incident to a possible terror attack. The security agencies are now trying to ascertain whether the murder was done to snatch the vehicle or was it a general crime, and whether the men who boarded the taxi were terrorists.
Sources said the taxi driver was a former convict who was previously involved in narcotic smuggling. Kumar was married and is survived by his wife and two minor daughters.
Though the police has sounded an alert and has released CCTV footage, it is still clueless about them. It is yet to recover the vehicle.
Six Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists had also killed a taxi driver in Gurdaspur on 31 December to snatch his vehicle to reach Pathankot Air Base.