AMRITSAR, Punjab, India; Punjab’s biggest Sikh separatist group suffered a major setback when police killed a leading member in a shootout and arresting two area commanders on Thursday, police said.

“Security forces have had a good day,” said a senior police officer in Chandigarh, capital of north India’s Punjab State. Three gunmen on bicycles opened fire when security forces challenged them near the town of Kapurthala, police said.

The patrol fired back and killed one man later identified as Balbir Singh of the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF). The other men escaped.

Police say the KCF is the strongest of the militant groups fighting for an independent Sikh homeland in Punjab; their campaign has cost nearly 1,500 lives this year.

The group suffered a major loss on Tuesday when police killed Sukhdev Singh, a KCF commander, in a similar encounter. Sukhdev Singh was framed in the killing of about a dozen policemen and in India’s biggest bank robbery which netted 57 million rupees, according to the police.

Police said they recovered a stun gun, two assault rifles and several rockets after killing Balbir Singh. They did’ not identify the type of rocket.

They also said they had arrested 10 freedom fighters in raids throughout Punjab early on Thursday, including two area commanders of the KCF.

They said two persons were beaten to death by neighbors who went to the aid of a man attacked in his home, a third attacker escaped.

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Article extracted from this publication >> July 22, 1988