Terror revisits Punjab after five months

Six services personnel killed as airbase in Pathankot is attacked; Militants are suspected to have sneaked into India from Pakistan.

January 02, 2016 11:25 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 05:07 am IST - NEW DELHI/PATHANKOT:

Security personnel take position on the rooftop of a building outside the Pathankot airbase on Saturday.

Security personnel take position on the rooftop of a building outside the Pathankot airbase on Saturday.

A group of four terrorists stormed the Pathankot Air Force base early on Saturday morning, killing six services personnel and injuring 18 after a fierce gun battle through the day,before being shot dead. The attack raised the spectre of cross-border terror yet again challenging peace efforts between India and Pakistan.

Sketchy information available from official sources said one Garud commando of the Air Force and two Defence Security Corps personnel were among those dead.Statements from both New Delhi and Islamabad indicated that the attack wouldn’t immediately scuttle the December 25 initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to drop in at Lahore in a surprise diplomatic effort to bring momentum back to the engagement that had suffered repeated setbacks since the NDA government came to power in May 2014.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Enemies of humanity who can’t see India progress, such elements attacked in Pathankot but our security forces did not let them succeed.” His Cabinet colleagues including Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said India wants peaceful relations with Pakistan, which was quick to condemn the attack.

The attack was the culmination of several dramatic hours that began on December 30-31 night, when the terrorists are suspected to have sneaked into India from Pakistan. Sometime around early Friday morning they intercepted a Superintendent of Police, Salwinder Singh, and two other men travelling in a blue beacon-mounted

SUV near Dinanagar. The terrorists thrashed them, dumped the SP on the road a few kilometres away and slashed another person. For several crucial hours, Mr. Singh’s claim of being intercepted by terrorists found no takers in the establishment, and much time was lost. According to sources, the terrorists used a phone snatched from the captives to make repeated calls to Pakistan. This was picked up by intelligence agencies, confirming the presence of terrorists in the area. Based on those intercepts, the security establishment began to piece together the security threat and stepped up combing operations.

The attack bore a close resemblance to the July 27, 2015 terror strike in Dinanagar. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval convened a highlevel meeting, and extra forces from the Army and State police were rushed to the area. In spite of those measures, the terrorists struck around 3.30 a.m. at the Air Force base, where MIG-21 fighters and MI-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters are based.

“I was awake at the staff quarters next to where Division number 2 police station is. I heard the gunshots and even before I could make any sense of them the wireless message was flashed from the police control room,” Jagtar Singh, an assistant SI of the local police station told The Hindu outside the base.

Terrorists ran amok for 24 hours

Senior police officers and NSG commandos rushed to the Pathankot Air Force base within half-an-hour after the terrorists struck there early on Saturday morning. The attack went on for more than 16 hours, and was over a little after 7 p.m.

“Intelligence inputs had been available of a likely attempt by terrorists to infiltrate into the military installation in Pathankot area. In response, preparatory actions had been taken by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to thwart any such attempt,” the IAF said in a statement. Questions remained as to where the terrorists were for almost 24 hours between the time they intercepted the SP’s vehicle and launched the attack.

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