Vicky Gounder, and key aide Prema Lahoria were killed in an encounter

Punjab’s most wanted gangster Harjinder Singh, alias Vicky Gounder, and key aide Prema Lahoria were killed in an encounter on Friday evening near the Punjab-Rajasthan border, police said.

A third gangster shot in the operation led by the State Crime Control Unit died of his injuries at the Civil Hospital in Abohar. He was later identified as Sukhpreet Singh.

Inspector General Special Operations Group Nilabh Kishore said the police got a tip-off that Gounder was near the Punjab -Rajasthan border area and the police conducted the operation to nab him at Hindumal Kot village of Abohar subdivision in Fazilka district.

He added that two police personnel including a sub-inspector and assistant sub-inspector were injured in the shootout and have been admitted to hospital.The police recovered three weapons, including two .32-bore pistols, from the gangsters.

Director General of Police (intelligence) Dinkar Gupta said, “We got a tip-off that Vicky Gounder and Prema Lahoria were at Pakki village in Sri Ganganagar district of Rajasthan, barely 50 metres from the border with Punjab, at the house of another gangster, Lakhwinder Singh, alias Lakha.”

“After our sources confirmed their presence, we surrounded the house. The gangsters opened fire on the police. Lahoria was killed when he was trying to escape by jumping the boundary wall. Gounder was also killed inside the house,” Gupta said.The encounter went on for over an hour. Lakhwinder Singh Lakha was arrested.The police initiated a combing operation in the area. Meanwhile, the Rajasthan police also arrived on the scene.

Gounder emerged as the Punjab police’s prime target after he broke out of the Nabha high-security jail in November 2016. He eluded capture despite police getting intelligence reports that he was mostly in Punjab after the jailbreak. Gounder, who used to taunt the police on Facebook while he was on the run, allegedly killed three rival gang members in April last year in Gurdaspur.

Gounder, a member of a gang started by Jaipal Singh, shot into the limelight in January 2015 after he was named the prime accused in the murder of rival Sukha Kahlwan. Gounder, accompanied by Lahoria, killed Kahlwan in Phagwara when six policemen were taking Kahlwan back to Nabha jail in a jeep after a court hearing in Jalandhar. According to sources, Gounder even filmed the act and danced around the Kahlwan’s body in front of the policemen and fled from the spot. Gounder was arrested for the murder later in 2015.

Gounder was wanted in at least 15 cases of murder, kidnapping and robbery in north India.Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh congratulated the Punjab Police force that carried out the operation. “Excellent work by DGP Suresh Arora, DG Intelligence Dinkar Gupta and OCCU team, including AIG Gurmeet Singh and Inspector Vikram Brar. Proud of you boys,” Singh said in a tweet.

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