1 December 2000
INDIAN NAVY CHIEF ESCAPES ATTEMPT TO KILL HIM IN SLEEP
From Jal Khambata
NEW DELHI: An unidentified armed man, described by the intelligence agencies as a possible "human bomb", made a daring but abortive attempt late Thursday night on the life of the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sushil Kumar, entering his high-security bungalow at Rajaji Marg here breaching three layers of security provided by the Naval commandos.
The culprit had managed to not only enter the main building but had even reached just outside the bedroom of the Navy chief when a Naval guard spotted and challenged him. He, however, succeeded in disappearing in the darkness after shooting down the guard. Admiral Sushil Kumar and his family members were asleep and were woken up by the sound of the exchange of gun fire between the guard and the intruder.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Defence Minister George Fernandes telephoned Admiral Sushil Kumar Friday morning, expressing their concern and assuring him that his security was being upgraded with immediate effect. Though the identity of the intruder remains unclear, fears are expressed that he may be a "human bomb" deputed by the banned Tamilian LTTE outfit of Sri Lanka which had bumped off former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
The top bosses of the security and intelligence agencies are in a tizzy as they rushed the spot hours before the sunrise, trying to find an answer to the question as to how the intruder could have managed to get in and get out of the area unchallenged as the Navy chief's residence is located barely a kilometre from the Prime Minister's House in the VVIP area that remains under most intense patrolling round the clock.
All that they have learnt about the intruder so far from the wounded guard Satbir, who has been since shifted to the Army Base Hospital here, was that he was a tall and dark-complexioned man who had enough arms to retaliate to some 20 rounds fired at him from close quarter. Once the 28-year old Satbir fell own as he was hit by a bullet, the culprit managed to retreat and escape from the rear side of the compound, dodging other commandos who had rushed on hearing the sound of the gun fire.
An alarm was raised by the commandos on failing to trace the culprit, alerting all Police patrol vehicles in the vicinity but without success. The top officials of the security agencies camping at the spot are unable to explain how someone can disappear from the area where every movement is checked.
A high-level board of inquiry constituted to investigate the security lapses noted that the culprit was suspected to be hiding in the back of the compound since 9 PM, watching movements of the Naval commandos inside and entered the bungalow around 1 AM when the commandos appeared relaxed, trying to warm up with heaters in view of the temperatures dipping sharply in the last two days.
The security at the residence of the admiral has been further tightened. Specially-trained Army commandos have taken up the security outside the compound wall while the Naval commandos are on guard inside the bungalow's compound with an increased number. Delhi Police has also put more patrols in the whole area.
On condition of anonymity, a source said the Intelligence Bureau had alerted Delhi Police and all other security agencies on November 20, the day Parliament began the winter session, about the entry of three "human bombs" in the capital, with a warning that they may target the Parliament House or any other important place during the assembly of ministers and top political leaders. The Parliament House security was increased in view of this alert.
Meanwhile, the authorities Friday evening tried to cover up the attempt to bump off Admiral Sushil Kumar while in sleep, claiming that no intruder had entered his high-security residence and that it was a case of sheer confusion created by Naval guard Satbir Singh opening fire in a drunken state.
Refusing to say anything more than that, they claimed Satbir Singh was wounded himself while trying to fiddle with his gun and he has been admitted to the Naval Hospital.
Sources on condition of anonymity, however, said the Government wants to play down the incident even while the full-fledged board of inquiry continues.
They said the Government's worry is that only three days later on December 4 President K R Narayanan, if he recovers by that time from his indisposition, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Defence Minister George Fernandes and other VVIPs have to attend the Naval Day function at the Admiral's residence. The highest security would be mounted on that day in view of the incident at Admiral Sushil Kumar's residence, the sources added. Marine commandos are specially being flown in from Mumbai for duty at his residence that day. END