Terror attacks Pathankot air force base, India-Pakistan thaw

Official said the terrorists were unable to enter the area where MiG-21 fighter aircraft, attack helicopters and other military hardware are kept.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal , KAMALDEEP SINGH BRAR | Pathankot | Updated: January 3, 2016 4:51 am
Pathankot: An armored vehicle moves near the Indian Air Force base that was attacked by militants in Pathankot, Punjab on Saturday. PTI Photo (PTI1_2_2016_000051B) An armored vehicle moves near the Indian Air Force base that was attacked by militants in Pathankot, Punjab on Saturday. (Source: PTI)

A week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unannounced trip to Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif’s home in Lahore to signal the willingness at the top to revive ties between the two countries, heavily-armed terrorists, suspected to be members of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad, attacked the Pathankot airbase in a pre-dawn strike Saturday.

Security forces, including commandos of the National Security Guard and Army and Indian Air Force personnel, engaged the terrorists, and gunbattles through the day left at least four terrorists and three security personnel dead — there are fears that the count of dead among security personnel may be higher. It was unclear how many terrorists were in the assault team.

Read | Highlights of the operation from Pathankot airbase

Officials said search and sanitising operations at the airbase were continuing to eliminate the possibility that more intruders could be holed up inside. They said the terrorists were unable to enter the area where MiG-21 fighter aircraft and attack helicopters were parked. As security forces on the ground engaged the terrorists, attack helicopters took to the air.

A senior military officer said the terrorists entered the airbase around 3 am from a point that adjoins a village. That area of the airbase has housing for personnel, administrative offices, an officers’ mess and the Defence Services Corps Mess. The building they entered first was the DSC Mess.

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“The personnel inside were taken by surprise,” the officer said. Five DSC men were shot at. The DSC comprises ex-servicemen who provide security cover to installations of the three services and civil establishments of the Ministry of Defence.

The airbase had been on high alert since Friday evening after two incidents off the Jammu-Pathankot highway early Friday. One was the murder of a taxi driver, and the other the hijacking of an SUV of a Superintendent of Police who managed to escape and alert the police.

ALSO READ: Pathankot terror attack strikes at heart of PM Modi’s Pakistan peacemaking 

Police initially disbelieved the SP’s story which led to delay in joining the dots. But by afternoon, when the taxi driver’s body was also found, the police had a clearer picture. They sent a CD of the SP’s interrogation to the National Security Advisor. Other intelligence inputs, said to be based on phone calls made by the terrorists to Pakistan, had also started coming in.

The NSG arrived at the Pathankot airbase and the Garud commandos of the IAF were also placed on high alert.

One terrorist was shot down as he was clambering over a 10-ft wall topped by concertina wire. Another account said he was shot as he tried to squeeze inside after removing a water-exit grill below the fence.

After the shooting spree at the the DSC Mess, the terrorists split into two groups.

One group hid in a building next to a furniture yard, while the other hid in sarkanda, a patch of tall grass, the official said. The NSG, which went after the group in the building, contemplated blowing up the structure but held back when they realised that three IAF ground liaison officers were also inside.

Later, they approached the building in a Casspir, a mine-protected vehicle. The terrorists, armed with assault rifles and grenades, were eliminated after a long battle.

The group in the sarkanda was taken on by military personnel, and “neutralised” after a long and fierce firefight, the officer said.

Suresh Arora, Director General of Punjab Police, whose men assisted in the operation along with the Border Security Force, said late Saturday the “operation is still on”.

(PTI adds: In a statement, the IAF said it had intelligence that such an attack would take place. “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,” it said.

“The infiltrators were immediately engaged and contained within a limited area, thus preventing them from entering the technical zone where high value assets are parked. Through timely and prompt action by all agencies, the likely plan of the terrorists to destroy valuable assets of the Air Force has been foiled,” it said.)

The sprawling airbase is located adjacent to highway around Pathankot that connects to Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and various cities of Punjab, Amritsar on one side and Chandigarh and Jalandhar on the other side. Adjacent to the airbase is the populated locality of Dhaki whose residents woke up to gunshots around 3 am Saturday.

“The security arrangements around the airbase had been in place since Friday evening itself. I have never seen such heavy security arrangements around the airbase before. Helicopters had been hovering in the sky since yesterday itself,” said a locality resident Ankit Sareen. “I woke up to gunshots at around 3 am,” said another resident Janak Raj.

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  1. S
    Sirius
    Jan 3, 2016 at 4:01 am
    In Delhi-NCR, there is a sudden increase in number of fruit-sellers on cart. They are young and well built , sometimes well dressed, often in groups, chatting away and show little interest in selling their stuff. If you engage with them as a buyer, you become aware of their community and their dialect of speaking. I fear that these persons are part of "sleeper cells" , awaiting activation for appropriate mission(s). I hope the police have them in their radar, and are photographing /profiling them.
    Reply
    1. मनीष
      Jan 3, 2016 at 5:25 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!
      Reply
      1. मनीष
        Jan 3, 2016 at 4:36 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 one in India wants to contribute to this war against terrorism in India, should stop buying things made in an Islamic country and stop doing business with a Muzzie owned store/business.
        Reply
        1. Y
          Yogita
          Jan 3, 2016 at 6:25 am
          Lack of Sincerity by the s - all they only want but give nothing in return
          Reply
          1. D
            Dillip Patnaik
            Jan 3, 2016 at 4:52 am
            Pathankot attack by terrorist should not derail the Modi-Sharif peace dialogue. Both side be vigilant, gather and should share terrorist activities and prepare to foil before they attack. Rajnath and Parikar should not relax and make speeches. They should strengthen the intelligence gathering and prepare before the terrorist resume their attack and every state police terrorist wing must gather intelligence and share and prepare to counter attack the terrorist before they launch their attack.
            Reply
            1. G
              Gangadhara Mudda
              Mar 9, 2016 at 4:35 pm
              s gallore
              Reply
              1. S
                S Subramaniam
                Jan 3, 2016 at 4:35 am
                After the successful 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks all subsequent terror strikes are copy book and identical. We need to strengthen our intelligence gathering system and timely/corrective measures. The case Ranjith K K, ex-Air Force employee is shocking and he does not have any remorse. He has has tarnished the image of Indians and Keralites. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and I sincerely pray to the Almighty to give strength and courage to face the irreparable loss of their beloved ones in terror attacks. May their souls RIP.
                Reply
                1. M
                  Me Marathi
                  Jan 3, 2016 at 6:06 am
                  You pick up any part of Delhi, UP, Bihar, Hyderabad, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, JandK, and you come across bearded fanatics. Let us all make a point to keep a vigil and report to local police and Army about their where about and keep a close watch on them. Surveillance should be stepped up against potential jihadi fanatics.
                  Reply
                  1. R
                    Ramesh Nittoor
                    Jan 3, 2016 at 5:50 am
                    Dilip, you make a good point about counter attack on terrorists. If stan claims these are non-state actors, and tech-int proves otherwise, then India will most probably have international legal rights to destroy those terror bases with precision guidance of targets. It is necessary to gain upper hand in the psy-war component of these terror attack, else these terror operatives will not be deterred. If these are claimed as non-state actors and stan state authorities are unable to bring them to book within a stited time period, India will probably have legal rights to counter them at their base, in the manner US has done. The response of special istant of stan is non-positive, unless a more senior authority of stan responds with a sincere tenor, the atmospherics can no more hold sway.
                    Reply
                    1. R
                      Ramesh Nittoor
                      Jan 3, 2016 at 5:54 am
                      The response of special istant of PM of stan is non-positive,
                      Reply
                      1. P
                        pkpk
                        Jan 4, 2016 at 1:25 am
                        USA, China and India are projected to maintain biggest standing armed forces in next 20 years. It is high time, Indian political leaders start a serious discussion on re-organization of military in contemporary WORLD. Here is one of the option USA is successfully maintaining over a century: RE-ORGANIZATION OF MILITARY/CIVILIAN COMMAND STRUCTURE: There should be only 5 commands (NOT as Army, Navy or Air force but all three integrated) - Northern Command, Western Command, Eastern Command, Central Command and Maritime Command (including Strategic Command). Eastern Command will include areas right up to South East Asia. Western Command will include areas up to Russia. Maritime Command will include areas up to West Asia including Arabian Sea, India Ocean, right up to Australia. Northern Command’s area will be limited but Kashmir itself is very important and areas in China (Tibet) and Mona can be included. Central Command will contain all strike formations of Army/AF and all erstwhile area/sub area headquarters. All 5 commands should be commanded by a 4 star general from army, air force or navy, who will report to Joint Chiefs of Staff (4 star general but a higher appointment) deputed by another 4 star general. Both Joint Chiefs of Staff and his deputy will report to the defense minister and their offices will be in Defense Ministry and PMO. Prime Minister will be connected to all 4 star commanders in field by a hotline. There should be a situation room in PMO where regular meeting of top br of security apparatus can take place. Current service chiefs of army, air force and navy will remain in service headquarters to maintain and inter command transfers of the forces, however the military commanders in field will exercise the command and control over the forces under their command. Instead of one defense secretary, there will be secretaries each for army, air force and navy to exercise civilian control.The above model will ensure complete civilian control over military, yet the highest level defense decision maker (PM) in touch with matters military and national defense. Imagine our PM calling the field military commander directly on hotline, eliminating all red tape. There will be no more inter-service acrimony and all forces will jointly responsible for national security! If you ask for the opinion of service headquarters, that may be biased.
                        Reply
                        1. R
                          rajat
                          Jan 3, 2016 at 4:38 pm
                          this is veiw of real situation.
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            Sathish
                            Jan 3, 2016 at 2:11 am
                            Slaves get killed covering up for the follies of corrupt politician puppets on both sides! Deceptions of democracies continues and aam s are willing to serve the devil at their own long term peril! Idiocies in kaliyug are imaginable and fantastic!!! LOL!!
                            Reply
                            1. S
                              shah
                              Jan 25, 2016 at 1:21 pm
                              stanis don't speak up against Indian terrorism in stan,just recently act of terrorism where so many innocent people died, there was clear evidence of Indian involvement through Afghanistan. stan was progressing so fast in eighties and before but the enemy didn't want that and terrorism started during m immigration of afghanis to stan in millions during zia dictators coup
                              Reply
                              1. P
                                proud to
                                Jan 3, 2016 at 4:22 am
                                India should also declare that terrorists belongs to no religion and their bodies will be fed to animals or thrown in the seas so sea creatures eats them
                                Reply
                                1. P
                                  proud to
                                  Jan 3, 2016 at 4:17 am
                                  India should help the democratic government of the stan to act against the ISI the promoter of terrorism
                                  Reply
                                  1. V
                                    Vishwas Patil
                                    Jan 3, 2016 at 12:57 am
                                    Timely detection shows working system. Pak army and ISI will not take any risk of diluting its grip - putting Shariff at short end. Hope India retaliates at a ratio of 10 for 1 - overt or covert. Cost of motivating, training, arming a terrorist is too low for ISIS. learning from Kasab story, these terrorists are paid peanuts. Making a fanatic is easiest amongst Islamists. So the ratio of 10:1 is must.
                                    Reply
                                    1. W
                                      Wilde
                                      Jan 3, 2016 at 5:29 pm
                                      Speaks volumes about the sheer incompetence of Indian security forces. Shame on the world's largest ill-trained military. A lesson in anti-terror operation across from their neighbours may be a good idea, or perhaps request for their istance to eliminate those that Indian military has failed to.
                                      Reply
                                      1. O
                                        Orange
                                        Jan 3, 2016 at 1:15 am
                                        Why were the air bases not on high alert if intelligence had prior information? How did the terrorists manage to sneak in despite so called early intelligence detection and warning about the attacks? If it was known that the SPs car had been carjacked why were all police posts not alerted to stop it , instead they let it p! This is clearly an intelligence failure or incompetent cops .It was in all probability the Garud commandos who controlled the situation.
                                        Reply
                                        1. B
                                          BM
                                          Jan 3, 2016 at 6:46 am
                                          I fully agree. Muslims in India are celebrating the attack. Read their comments.
                                          Reply
                                          1. B
                                            BM
                                            Jan 3, 2016 at 6:48 am
                                            If police did not believe their own SP, will they believe you ? You might end up paying bribe to get out of police station.
                                            Reply
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