Pathankot: Police reacted late, allowed terrorists a 14-hour headstart

The snatching of the Mahindra XUV 500 in which the officer was travelling came to the notice of the Punjab Police about 3 am on Friday.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | Updated: January 3, 2016 11:51 am
Punjab again: Second attack in six months Indian security forces stand guard near a road barrier outside an Indian air force base in Pathankot, 430 kilometers (267 miles) north of New Delhi, India, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. Gunmen attacked the air force base near the border with Pakistan on Saturday morning and exchanged fire with security forces, officials said. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

The terrorists who attacked the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot before dawn on Saturday had a headstart of several hours from the time the first unusual incidents were reported in that area.

The Punjab government has said that the men who killed taxi driver Ikagar Singh, and later waylaid superintendent of police Salwinder Singh, commandeering his SUV and throwing him and his two companions out, were the same as the ones who attacked the airbase.

READ| Villagers hail slain Ikagar Singh’s bravery, Parkash Singh Badal calls him ‘martyr’

The snatching of the Mahindra XUV 500 in which the officer was travelling came to the notice of the Punjab Police about 3 am on Friday. But it was well after 12 hours later that the police reacted — after the body of Ikagar was found a short distance from where the SP’s SUV was intercepted.

READ | Punjab again: Second attack in six months

A senior military official said the first alert from Punjab Police came in the late afternoon, after which security at all defence installations was ramped up. By the time ADGP (Law & Order) Hardeep Singh Dhillon rushed to Pathankot, ordered searches in the area, and the barricades came up, it was already dark. With alarm bells ringing, the National Security Guard (NSG) was flown to Pathankot late in the evening.

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It took the police a long time — and much hesitation — to say that the men behind the two incidents on the Jammu-Pathankot highway may be “possible” terrorists. In the 24 hours that the men appeared to have roamed free in the area, they also called someone in Bahawalpur in Pakistan using the SP’s mobile phone.

Salwinder, the SP (Headquarters) in Gurdaspur who had just been transferred to the 75th battalion of the Punjab Armed Police, was abducted around midnight on December 31, sources in the Punjab Police said. He and his two companions were beaten and tied to trees. They managed to free themselves, and informed the Pathankot police around 3 am on Friday. The police, however, took a long time reacting, possibly because they were not immediately convinced of Salwinder’s story about being waylaid by men in Army fatigues.

It was only after ADGP Dhillon reached Pathankot that the red alert was sounded at 4.30 pm Friday, sources said. “We lost 14 vital hours, and daylight. Had we sounded the alarm sooner, losses could have been minimised,” a police officer said. ADGP Dhillon was not available for a comment.

A retired Punjab Police officer said it was odd that the police failed to react even after a senior police officer had been abducted. Sources said it was possible that had the vehicle not suffered a tyre burst near Tajpur, the terrorists would travelled farther, and could have reached an ammunition dump a few kilometres from Dera Baba Nanak.

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  1. G
    Jan 3, 2016 at 12:16 am
    Indian police is often not alert to quickly react to such emergencies. It was also true in the Mumbai attack.
  2. J
    Jan 3, 2016 at 12:00 pm
    Nonsense in absence of an iota of evidencedian Muslims are as patriotic as Hindus if not more.What was agent Ranjit doing to the IAF? tHAT WAS NOT VERY PATRIOTIC.
  3. J
    Jan 3, 2016 at 12:03 pm
    Punjab Police has been molded into yesmen of ruling cl.Drugs,liquor,illegal sand,no traffic regulation are some of their areas of expertise.Alertness is absent from the discipline.
  4. K
    kamath Ramesh
    Jan 3, 2016 at 7:37 am
    It is well known fact that police force is most lethargic in our country. If one watch their body language, body built and their approach, it becomes evident that it is unfit for such fights. If not, when there were enough evidence of militants presence, SP car was hijacked, why it took so long to react
  5. K
    Jan 3, 2016 at 11:39 am
    police is not concerned with the security of country . it is the mirror of the working of police in the state . This incident took place due to negligence of police who is engauged showing their bravery to the innocent civilians . Had they done their duty faithfully the death of brave solders would have been averted . By suspending them against huge loss of valuable lives DOES NOT SERVE THE PURPOSE They must be given deterrent punishment for negligence of duty . It is second time that their working is exposed which helped stani terrorist to dare to attack even in army bases ?.
  6. R
    Jan 3, 2016 at 5:49 am
    With all inputs, how four of our soldiers martyred? why full protection gear was not provided to them?
  7. S
    Jan 3, 2016 at 2:54 am
    Police slaves can only go late if they are ordered to allow the attack. How can slaves be blamed for following orders? The blame that can stick on them is of selling-out their soul!
  8. V
    vasoo kamulkar
    Jan 3, 2016 at 8:03 am
    Manish is right. It must be an united effort to neutralize the enemies within and without. . hism won't alone save Sindhusthaan.
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