Pathankot terror attack: Operation still on, death toll mounts to 7

Ten security personnel remain in hospital at the base, many of them in serious condition, according to military sources.

Written by KAMALDEEP SINGH BRAR , Sagnik Chowdhury , Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh | Updated: January 4, 2016 9:43 am
pathankot, pathankot attacks, punjab terror attack, pathankot air base, pathankot terror attack, parkash singh badal, punjab news, punjab attack news, punjab news, india news Search and sanitising operations were continuing at the airbase on Sunday morning to flush out any more possible intruders.

For the second straight day, the Indian Air Force (IAF) air base here remained the scene of intense gun battles after at least two more terrorists emerged from hiding overnight and engaged security forces throughout Sunday.

The total number of security personnel killed in the operation went up to seven — Lt Col Niranjan Kumar of the National Security Guard (NSG), five Defence Security Corps (DSC) personnel and an Air Force Garud commando.

READ | He said he was in an op… would call me back, says father of Lt Col Niranjan Kumar

Officials said in the evening that the operation was continuing, but played down concerns over the rising military casualties and why it was taking so long to take back control. They said the operation was “heading towards completion”, and the terrorists had been prevented from reaching their main target, the technical area of the airport.

WATCH | Military on high alert as security operation continues at Pathankot Air Base (App Users)

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with top officials, including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to discuss the attack, on Sunday night. Earlier in the day, Modi was briefed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

READ | 15 terrorists have sneaked in: DGP warned on Dec 26

Addressing a briefing in Delhi, Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said five NSG personnel, including Lt Col Niranjan Kumar, were injured in an accidental grenade explosion, while checking the body of a dead terrorist at 10 am on Sunday. The officer later succumbed to his injuries.

READ | Village where SP’s vehicle was found, Close shave with terror leaves Akalgarh shaken

Eight IAF and 12 NSG personnel have been injured. One of the injured, Naik Sri Mallu, has been airlifted to Chandigarh.

READ | Pathankot martyr: He said he would call later…, says wife of Gursewak Singh

Air Marshal Anil Khosla, Director General of Air Operations, said the “operation is at a mature stage, but we give a confirmation only once we physically see the bodies of the terrorists.” He added, “Only once the whole area is sanitised and checked, can we say there were only six terrorists.”

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So far, the bodies of four terrorists have been recovered from the area of operation. ”The operation is on and is heading towards completion,” said J S Dhamoon, Air Officer Commanding, at Pathankot.

READ | Pathankot attack: Here is what happened in last 42 hours

The firing inside the base continued throughout the day near an area where the terrorists are said to have first entered. A number of blasts could be heard. The security forces are reported to have demolished a building that was being used by the terrorists.

READ | Pathankot martyr: ‘He exhibited extraordinary valour, didn’t care for his life’

IAF attack helicopters were pressed into service once again on Sunday morning. The helicopters widened the surveillance to include the area around the adjoining Akalgarh village, where the terrorists abandoned a vehicle that they had snatched from a police official on Friday.

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Police and security personnel sealed the village from all sides as helicopters carried out the surveillance, and contingents of the army, BSF and Punjab police were deployed in different layers around the village and IAF station.

READ | Pathankot martyr: We heard gunfire and came out to look for Papa, says Fateh Singh’s daughter

Giving an account of how the attack took place, Dhamoon said four terrorists moving in a group first opened fire on the windows of a facility in the air base. ”They headed towards the DSC mess where they opened indiscriminate fire,” he said, adding that one DSC jawan ran towards the last of the four militants and “jostled with him, killing the terrorist with the terrorist’s rifle”. Dhamoon said the DSC jawan was killed by a bullet fired by one of the terrorists.

While three other terrorists were killed on Saturday, Mehrishi said at that point, they “were not certain whether there were other terrorists or not”. But the operation was slowed down to avoid unnecessary risk to security personnel, he said.

READ | Pathankot martyr: Family went to see him in hospital, told to go home

“In the morning, at 12:30 pm, two other terrorists who were hiding were discovered. Operations are going on. They are limited to an area and we are very hopeful that by this evening, these two terrorists will also be neutralised,” said Mehrishi.

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”Due to the active intelligence input, advance information and quick action by security forces, especially the Air Force, we were able to ensure that there was no damage to the assets of the Air Force. Therefore, the apparent main aim of the terrorists stands defeated,” he said.

READ | Pathankot air base attack: No delay in sending out first alerts, says Punjab Govt

Asked if the number of casualties suffered by the security forces despite an intelligence alert pointed to a lapse, the Home Secretary said, “I do not consider it a lapse at all. In such a situation, when weapons are in use, some injuries and some deaths are bound to take place.”

On how the terrorists managed to enter the IAF base despite intelligence and pre-positioning of the NSG, Mehrishi said, “The exact point of attack in Pathankot was not known. So NSG was there waiting for instructions, basically on alert and on stand-by mode. The NSG entered the IAF base the moment the attack took place. There was no way of knowing whether the attack would be on the Air Force or Army.”

READ | Pathankot attack: PM Modi chairs meeting to review situation with NSA, Foreign Secy

Mehrishi said a terror alert was sounded in all vital installations and government offices immediately after Punjab police relayed information about two incidents between Gurdaspur and Pathankot, a murder and a carjacking, involving four men in army fatigues.

”Efforts were mounted to reconfirm the infiltration and also see which direction the terrorists had taken and what their location might be,” said Mehrishi.

By afternoon, when their location was tracked to Pathankot, a meeting was held at the level of the NSA and was attended by all concerned, including the Chief of Army Staff. A unit of the NSG was dispatched to Pathankot on the same day.

According to Air Marshal Khosla, “After the advance warning was issued, all airfields were put on alert, especially the Pathankot area, because there was a specific input that this is the area where it is likely that something could happen.”

Meanwhile, asked to explain why the government thought the counter-attack was effective, a top government official closely involved with the operation said: “The terrorists came to attack Indian defence installations. Their target was not people. They wanted to destroy tanks and aircraft. We were successful in keeping them away, confined to outer areas.”

When asked about the death toll, the official said: “They had guns in their hands. When you counter-attack the terrorists who have come to destroy and die, they will surely hit back. We ensured minimum casualty. We ensured that terrorists come under control without hitting their prime target.”

When asked how the attack would affect the peace initiative kickstarted by the PM’s Lahore visit, the official said: “Some people want to continue their dukaan of conflict… they don’t want to be out of business. Let us see.”

— With inputs from Sheela Bhatt, New Delhi

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  1. O
    OS
    Jan 4, 2016 at 12:37 am
    Can we call this,again like 26/11, OPERATION SLOW MOTION?
    Reply
    1. B
      Busy_Modi
      Jan 4, 2016 at 4:10 am
      Modi came back from Karnataka where he was busy expanding BJP party by uring the murderers of Kalburji that they need not worry. For him expansion of BJP is more important than lives of jawans.
      Reply
      1. मनीष
        Jan 4, 2016 at 4:30 am
        Every time when India is terrorized by stanis, Indian Muslims have provided support to those stani terrorists. Enough is enough. Excluding the SICKulars, any Indian who wants to contribute to the war against terrorism in India, should stop buying things made in an Islamic country and stop doing business with a Muzzie owned store/business. You have to act and do your duty as well!
        Reply
        1. मनीष
          Jan 4, 2016 at 4:30 am
          Every time when India is terrorized by stanis, Indian Muslims have provided support to those stani terrorists. Enough is enough. Excluding the SICKulars, any Indian who wants to contribute to the war against terrorism in India, should stop buying things made in an Islamic country and stop doing business with a Muzzie owned store/business. You have to act and do your duty as well!
          Reply
          1. R
            Romik
            Jan 4, 2016 at 3:11 am
            Stop using Oil use Solar and wind power..NOW! Funding will cease. Also take a deep breath relax let the professionals do thier job.
            Reply
            1. P
              Pathetic
              Jan 4, 2016 at 4:12 am
              OPERATION SLOW MOTION by India.
              Reply
              1. Y
                Yogesh
                Jan 4, 2016 at 6:18 am
                Lack of Sincerity by stanis - but then we always knew that
                Reply
                1. N
                  N Pal Singh
                  Jan 3, 2016 at 6:01 am
                  Hats off to the bravery of great patriot of soil....Salute to their nationality ...
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    ambrish
                    Jan 4, 2016 at 2:28 am
                    ALL OUR DEFENSE ESTABLISHMENTS ARE VULNERABLE. WE HAVE TO UME THAT THERE ARE SLEEPING CELLS IN ALL THE ESTABLISHMENT AND BE VIGILANT. HYDERABAD AND AND UP CAN EXPECT ATTACKS ANY TIME. 2016 WILL BE VERY DANGEROUS YEAR FOR INDIA. CONGRESS LEADERS WENT O STAN AND ASKED FOR THEIR HELP TO OVER THROW MODI GOVERNMENT AND INSTALL CONGRESS BACK IN POWER. WHAT AN IRONY?
                    Reply
                    1. B
                      BAPTY.s Seshasayee
                      Jan 5, 2016 at 10:05 am
                      Shocking with a strict person like our MODIJI, and NSAIDs INCHARGE Mr do all, def min Parikkar etc, a handful of Trrorists under 22 yrs of age is holding airbase to ransom. Is our Defence Security so weak ,and backwarD that we cannot have good Intelligence on our airbases, . Why SHLD we lose valuable officers and Jawans Why can we not seal the Borders. How come we allow terrorists to enter our Defence installations and stay inside for 4 days. There seems to be much more weakness than meets the eye, in our defence preparedness. MODIJI and Mr Parikkar SHLD take on all this Far more seriously. Some local insiders work could be possible. Thank u.
                      Reply
                      1. R
                        rhambo
                        Jan 4, 2016 at 2:59 am
                        ajit doval must be let go and retired immediately after the operations are over. Irrespective of party affiliations, the pm and cabinet must thank this man for his sevices and given an honourable exit. he cannot be allowed to continue the job. the stakes are too hi. its not like chalega or sarkari naukri. its based on demonstrated competence and accountability.
                        Reply
                        1. D
                          Dipak
                          Jan 4, 2016 at 3:45 am
                          Soon by 2020, new free fuel made from sand will be available. All oil producing Middle East Muslims will be begging again. Oil price will go down to $10 a barrel soon. Keep up wit latest technology. US is investing $7 billion, Warren Buffet. Bill Gates and Mark Zukenberg have invested heavily.
                          Reply
                          1. T
                            tyhj
                            Jan 3, 2016 at 9:33 am
                            A very Sincere suggestion to Mr Nawaz Sherif , Prime Minister of stan. Allow the Indian Army to Flush out Terrorist from your Land. Our Army can do it. You have admitted that controlling and Neutralising Terrorism is out of your Control. We can free you from the Devil which you have specially created to destroy India but in the process your Devil has grown more than you thought. Our PM Modi had made a great Statement during the General elections in the year 2014 and that is " Sab ka saat Sab Ka Vikas". Therefore take our Suggestion very Seriously as our Armed forces can not only Neutralize Terrorism but can ensure smooth process for Good Governance and Development for People of stan, which they are completely unaware. So Respected Sir all you have to is call up our PM Modi and ask for help to Neutralize Terrorism which was cherished and Nurtured by Respective government in your country.
                            Reply
                            1. M
                              Muhammad Kashif
                              Jan 4, 2016 at 6:01 am
                              Wawaoo.... Indian govt still have not announced who are the terrorist but People of india and Keyboard deshbakht already declared it and already igned the Punishment for stan. What a sick nation.
                              Reply
                              1. M
                                Muhammad Kashif
                                Jan 4, 2016 at 9:02 am
                                hahaha.... grow up guys.... think from mind first than speak. The hate is transferring generation to generation but you still u dont know what is the root of the problems. do some research first, dont always get ready to fight on social media. Even you peoples were calling Aamir khan and sharukh khans are terrorist... also had announced punishment for them. that's the bottom level of mentally sickness.
                                Reply
                                1. M
                                  Muhammad Kashif
                                  Jan 4, 2016 at 9:10 am
                                  so first wait, don't be a judge yourself. Since 2 days your army can not clear Indian Army area and still fighting with 2 terrorists and you all Keyboard deshbakth are talking about destroying stan.... hahahah thanks for making me laugh.
                                  Reply
                                  1. J
                                    JH
                                    Jan 4, 2016 at 1:00 am
                                    These Wahabi terrorists from across the border are funded by Saudi petro dollars. Unless India acts against Saudi Arabia, this problem will keep growing. 99.99% of Indian Muslims are patriots.
                                    Reply
                                    1. K
                                      kamath Ramesh
                                      Jan 3, 2016 at 7:33 am
                                      Though we can take solace on the fact that no collateral damage to the airbase, which was the militants aim, but we cannot forget seven people have been martyred and couple of civilians. The casualty is more than the militants killed. We can say we have succeeded only if we kill militants without any damage to our ets or to our man power. Having information how these terrorists allowed to enter the air base? When there are only two ways from where the terrorists can enter, one is small creek and other is disputed land, why these two routs not sealed fully or proper security not placed
                                      Reply
                                      1. S
                                        Siva
                                        Jan 4, 2016 at 4:47 am
                                        Shut your mouth you scoundrel.
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          Manu USA
                                          Jan 4, 2016 at 3:51 am
                                          I am sorry, but we need to kill them all asap. Why they r alive even after so many days. The information was there. Why they were not killed on the arrival.
                                          Reply
                                          1. M
                                            matt
                                            Jan 4, 2016 at 2:50 am
                                            Here is video NBC jourlist interviewing French Commando after the Paris attack and the bullet proof equipment they used.
                                            Reply
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