Announcing that the six terrorists, who attacked the Indian Air Force base here have been neutralised, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday put up a spirited defence of the Centre’s handling of the terror attack.
The Minister said the forces had to ensure the safety of nearly 3000 civilians who stay inside the base, and secure all the strategic assets against the high quality explosives the attackers were carrying, “which they successfully did,” he added
Responding to questions on the under-utilising of the Army in the garrison town and the rationale for roping in the NSG, Mr. Parrikar said: “Army cannot be expected to perform civil duties, guard roads. Also since there were civilians in the base, we needed the expertise of NSG.”
Only one operational loss
Further, Mr. Parrikar argued that only one of the security personnel who died in Pathankot was an operational loss.
Of the seven security personnel who lost their lives battling terrorists, he said only the death of the IAF Garud commando was an operational loss — four others died even before the counter-terror operations began, while the sixth, the Lt Colonel from NSG, fell to a booby trap during combing.
Maintains restraint on role of Pakistan
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was restrained in his criticism of Pakistan, in line with the tone adopted by the Modi government.
Addressing the media here, the Minister said: “They [the terrorists] managed to enter the main premises with AK-47 rifles, underbarrel grenade launchers, over 50 kg of bullets, magazines, mortar and Swiss knife. The National Investigation Agency has leads that some of the weapons used by the terrorists were of Pakistani-make.”
According to Mr. Parrikar, the flushing out part of the operation was over in 36 hours but the combing operation continued and is likely to stretch for a few day.
Even as he confirmed that all six terrorists have been eliminated, Mr. Parrikar said that two of them had taken shelter in a building which had to be blown up. “These bodies were recovered in pieces and the NIA will conduct a DNA test on the remains for identification,” said Mr. Parrikar.
The Minister insisted there was adequate security in place for the airbase, even while admitting to some gaps. He also, refused to answer questions about the failure of Punjab Police or BSF to prevent the attacks.
He congratulated all the forces for completing a challenging operation in a difficult area spread across 1900 acres and with plenty of blind spots for terrorists to hide.
Mr. Parrikar made a special mention of the Defence Security Corps constable Jagdish Singh, saying the country was proud of the man who killed a terrorist after snatching his rifle.