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Probing the Pathankot terror attack: An Indian Express series

An Indian Express series investigating the Pathankot terror attack - from the first fire to the end of operations.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 14, 2016 6:57:18 am

Guns, a dagger and perfume, what the terrorists carried

AK-47 assault rifles, a grenade launcher, a dagger, cough tablets and some perfume are among things the Pathankot airbase attackers were carrying, recoveries made by the Air Force and the National Security Guard have revealed. A wire cutter recovered by the Air Force also strengthens the theory that the terrorists entered the base by scaling its 11-ft wall and snipping concertina wires, sources told The Indian Express. Read more here.

Terrorists hid overnight in airbase shed

The four terrorists who attacked the Pathankot airbase last week spent up to 24 hours resting inside a disused Military Engineer Services shed as they prepared to launch their attack, highly-placed sources in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) have told The Indian Express. This raises the prospect that the attackers may have been aided by reconnaissance conducted earlier. Read more here.

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Calls from Pathankot: Digital trail leads to Pakistan

Five phone numbers called by the terrorists who attacked the Pathankot airbase last week track back to individuals whose Facebook pages identify them as residents of Pakistan. In one case, an individual had posted images of armed Jaish-e-Muhammad operatives; another number was one used in advertisements for its charitable front, al-Rahmat. Read more here

Watch video: The rise of Jaish-e-Muhammad

Two ‘intruders’ chased, turned out to be pigs

On the night of January 4, the Pathankot airbase again came alive as heavy firing began. Media personnel standing outside the base also started flashing the news. This came after thermal imaging devices, being used by Indian Air Force (IAF) and National Security Guard (NSG) personnel on combing operations, indicated the presence of “two intruders” in one part of the base. The firing continued for almost half an hour, with the IAF deploying an attack helicopter. Read more here.

Around the airbase

A clump of eucalyptus trees towers over the 11-foot-tall western periphery wall of the airbase. This is the where the breach happened, the stretch marked by personnel of the Punjab Police who are standing guard. A few floodlights have been mounted onto some of the eucalyptus trees. That’s a new addition — on January 1, when the terrorists entered the airbase from this point, after snipping the concertina wire on the wall, the floodlights were only fixed on the concrete wall, with three of them pointing upwards. There are watchtowers rising up from inside the wall at regular intervals, but not at this point. Read more here


The case of the missing GPS device

Days after the military cleared the Pathankot Air Force base of terrorists, the GPS device that is presumed to have been used by the attackers to get to the station is yet to be handed over to the state police. Pathankot DSP (Rural) Kuldeep Singh, who is in-charge of the investigation, said that the device may have been destroyed either by the attackers themselves or destroyed in the encounter. “The Indian Air Force (IAF) is yet to hand over any such device. It may be possible that they couldn’t recover it during their operation,” he said. Read more here.

Army personnel move in vehicles during the operation against the militants at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot. (Source: PTI) Army personnel move in vehicles during the operation against the militants at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot. (Source: PTI)

Plot to link attack to Sikh group using Army man: Hawara aide

Parallel to the probe into the alleged role of the Jaish-e-Muhammad in the Pathankot airbase attack, the Delhi Police Special Cell has questioned a Sikh political activist and a serving Army officer. In November, the Army officer is said to have sent the activist names of four alleged Babbar Khalsa Pakistan operatives and then called him after the Pathankot attack to ask if the Pathankot terrorists were the same men. Read more here.

How wires got crossed in Delhi

The Indian Express investigation points at who took what decision – and who did not in the Pathankot air base attack. Doval chaired a meeting with the chiefs of the three armed forces, and the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, at 3.30 pm. Bases were put on alert. The Air Officer-Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Air. Command flew to Pathankot at about 4.45 pm, followed by two groups of the National Security Guard. Read more here.

Behind the Pathankot breach, 3 lights turned upward and airbase staffer detained

In the stretch of the 11-foot-high wall, on the night of the breach at the airbase, three of the powerful lights were said to be found “turned upward,” directed away from the wall and up throwing the area in a zone of darkness. Every other light on the perimeter was in the right position except these, a source said. Officials and investigators said that this possibly pointed to “insider complicity”. The man being questioned has been detained. Read more here.

Strips of Ponstan painkiller tablets (right) found on the bodies of the four terrorists who were killed. The strip shows it was made in Karachi. Syringes as well as vials of injectible Neurobion were also found. Strips of Ponstan painkiller tablets (right) found on the bodies of the four terrorists who were killed. The strip shows it was made in Karachi. Syringes as well as vials of injectible Neurobion were also found.

All alert, all caught unawares — luck their strongest ally

The last terrorists inside the Air Force base in Pathankot had held out since early on Sunday morning, January 3, firing from inside the building and a nearby patch of elephant grass. The Airmen’s Mess was where they were killed, set alight by explosives and gunfire from armoured personnel carriers. As the National Investigation Agency sifts through the detritus of the battle, there’s a strange fact facing them. The Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar, his key aide Maulana Ashfaq Ahmad, Hafiz Abdul Shakoor and Kasim Jan: these men, they say, spoke to the terrorists in intercepted phone conversations. Read more here

Fence floodlights that didn’t work, gaps in border patrol, patchy police response

Hundreds of Defence Security Corps guards tasked with guarding that fence, the last line of defence for one of India’s most vital forward bases, had failed to notice as the assault team lugged themselves, 50 kg of ammunition, 30 kg of grenades, and their assault weapons. The ease with which terrorists penetrated the base, was just one of many factors which facilitated the strike — leading to a three-day fire engagement that has set off a political storm as well. Read more here


BSF zeroes in on two intrusion theories — a tunnel, Kashmir route

January 8, 2016: A team of senior BSF officials, led by Director General DK Pathak, visited the international border in Gurdaspur, Punjab to take stock of the border defences and ascertain how the terrorists may have sneaked in. BSF sources said that the team inspected a 20-km stretch, covering several border outposts (BoPs) on either side of Bamial post from where the terrorists are suspected to have entered. The inspection team found no breach in a 20-km stretch of border, but footprints in Bamial have a Pakistan firm’s marking. Read more here

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