Fugitive radical preacher and Khalistan sympathiser Amritpal Singh had been targeting drug addicts and rogue ex-servicemen to help him build a gang that could be easily transformed into a terrorist outfit, officials said in Chandigarh on Thursday.
Giving details of his journey and plans that he was likely to execute at the behest of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, they said Amritpal Singh, upon his return from Dubai, started a drug de-addiction centre at his village Jallupur Kehra in Punjab's Amritsar district.
In a simultaneous operation, he along with his men started looking for ex-servicemen who had been retired from the Army for bad behaviour so that they could be used for imparting arms training, the officials said.
Immediately after his return last year and he taking over the 'Waris Punjab De' outfit after the death of actor-activist Deep Sidhu, Amritpal Singh had a cover of two private security officers, and by early this year, the number had gone up to 16.
The surprising part was that seven of his personal security officers were youngsters, who had joined his drug de-addiction centre for rehabilitation, the officials said, adding that during their stay there for treatment they had been imparted training.
The youngsters, admitted at the de-addiction centre, were brainwashed and pushed towards gun culture and also incited to choose the path of slain terrorist Dilawar Singh, who blew himself up and killed former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, they said.
Targeting rogue ex-servicemen was beneficial for the pro-Khalistan preacher as they already had arms licences which could help his organisation to evade the law, the officials said.
Two such ex-servicemen, identified as Varinder Singh of the 19 Sikhs and Talwinder Singh of the 3rd Armoured Punjab, were instrumental in providing arms training to the youngsters, who were addicted to drugs, they said.
The licences were cancelled by the administration subsequently and Varinder Singh was arrested while Taliwinder Singh is still at large, the officials said.
Security agencies had raised a red flag after intelligence inputs suggested that Amritpal Singh was using drug de-addiction centres and a gurudwara for stocking weapons besides preparing youngsters to carry out suicide attacks, the officials said.
A thick dossier prepared with inputs from various security agencies claimed that Amritpal Singh was mainly engaged in preparing the youngsters to become 'Khadkoos' (terrorists).
During investigation arms and ammunition meant for the so-called Anandpur Khalsa Fauj, a creation of Amritpal Singh, were seized.
Uniforms and jackets were also confiscated by police, the officials said.
They added that the weapons and ammunition seized from the radical Sikh preacher's car also bore 'AKF' markings on it.
The officials said weapons were being stored in several of de-addiction centres run by 'Waris Punjab De' as well as at the Jallupur Khera Gurdwara in Amritsar.
Amritpal Singh had attended a 'Shaheedi Samagam' of killed terrorists where he termed them martyrs of the Panth, and promoted gun culture and glorified use of weapons.
The preacher is on the run after the Punjab Police arrested several of his supporters in a major crackdown that began weeks after the storming of the Ajnala police station near Amritsar to secure the release of an arrested associate.
The episode had raised fears over the possibility of the return of Khalistani militancy to the state that borders Pakistan.