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Pathankot strike: India digs up proof for Pakistan

A securityman takes position on a rooftop of a building outside the Air Force base in Pathankot. File Photo  

The > four terrorists who attacked the Pathankot airbase on January 2 had entered India through a riverine patch in Bamiyal village along the Punjab border on the intervening night of December 30-31. After a long trek, they sat down for a meal of Shahi Paneer, Haleem, Shahi chicken, jam, cookies and Nestle milk, NIA has said.

They dug a pit and hid the food packets, each weighing 300-375 grams. At the end of the meal, the four terrorists, who were identified by India, proceeded to the Pathankot airbase. Almost two months after the attack, the National Investigation Agency has now recovered the empty packets. India has sent the details, along with other evidence gathered from the airbase, to Pakistan for corroborative evidence.

The Pakistani Special Investigation Team (SIT) is expected to come to India around March 20, a source said.

On Monday, India sent a Letter Rogatory to Pakistan, asking them about the manufacturing details of 38 tetra packets of Nestle milk manufactured in Pakistan, chocolates, Dal Fry, Dal Mash, aluminium foil, Made in Karachi thermal wear and photographs of the four terrorists who were killed at the airbase.

Indian agencies mocked at for confusion over number of terrorists

While NSG, which carried out the operation at the airbase claimed that there were two more terrorists who had taken position at the Airmen’s Billet that was blown up, a NIA source said so far, the evidence gathered suggested that there were only four terrorists inside.

The official said they had phone intercepts of one of the Pakistani handlers where he is heard mocking at the Indian security agencies for confusion over the number of terrorists at the airbase. The call was intercepted on January 3, when union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi briefed the media that NSG had informed them about the possibility of two more terrorists at the airbase. A day before this, union home minister Rajnath Singh had tweeted that the operation was over and five terrorists had been neutralised. Singh later deleted his tweet.

In the call intercepted on January 3, the handler is heard saying,“in kaafiron ko yehi nahin pata ki chaar the ya cheh? (these infidels still don’t know whether they are four or six?”)

Forensic results awaited

The NSG had handed over some burnt remains, collected from the Billet to the NIA for forensic examination. The samples were sent to the Chandigarh laboratory, which has still not provided the report.

“We have sent two reminders to CFSL, Chandigarh and asked them for the report. They are yet to provide us. We want to be sure of the number of terrorists at the airbase before the Pakistani team comes here,” said the official.

The official said that the bodies were handed over to NIA on January 7, five days after the attackers had been killed, so the fingerprints could not be lifted properly as the skin had corroded. Even the bodies had started to decompose and the photographs of the terrorists are said to be of poor quality due to this. NIA has roped in a professional institute in Mumbai to improvise the pictures.

Cameras not working

Investigators have also found that at least 35 cameras along the Bamiyal village were not working on the night the four terrorists entered the airbase. “The terrorists swam through the riverine stretch and took cover of the elephant grass to enter India. At least 35 cameras, which covered the riverine stretch, were not working that night,” said the official.

Evidence against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)

A senior government official said they had irrefutable evidence against JeM chief Masood Azhar, his brother Abdul Rauf (one of the handlers) and another handler Kaashif Jaan, who had dropped the terrorists till the border, for their involvement in the attack. “When the Pakistani team comes here, we will provide them with the evidence. The terrorists dialled six numbers in Pakistan. We have identified all the four terrorists,” said the official.

The NIA has also sought details and picture of sons of Khayam Baber, whose son had was part of the suicide squad that carried out the attack.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 9:55:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Pathankot-strike-India-digs-up-proof-for-Pakistan/article14134554.ece

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