Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday admitted to “blind spots” and “some gaps” that led to the terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in which all the six infiltrators have been killed.
Addressing a press conference at the Air Force base, Parrikar who was accompanied by Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag said the terrorists were armed with AK 47, under barrel grenades, knives, swiss knives commando knives and at least 40 to 50 kilograms of bullets, besides three to four dozens of magazines.
He said the terrorists were firing the mortars from modified under barrel guns. The minister said the bodies of two terrorists were badly charred and their body parts were recovered strewn at two different places. He added that the National Investigation Agency after getting conducted the DNA tests on the parts twice has confirmed that sixth terrorist was also dead.
Parikkar said combing operation was on. “This (combing operation) is only for safety purpose,” he said, adding that the operation was aimed at destroying live and unexploded forms of explosives, some of which he said was very “high quality”.
“One of the terrorists has still had body vest where they (security forces) can see a grenade stuck up…I am very very clear they should not take any risk. We have already lost one person in booby trap so no more losses.
Parikkar said though combing operation was likely to end on Wednesday, it would be the call of the NSG commanders. He pointed out that combing operation was very difficult because bomb disposal suit cannot be worn for more than 10 to 15 minutes as it heats up the body.
He congratulated the security forces for doing an “excellent job of containing these highly motivated terrorist on suicide mission within practically 250 meter by 250 meter” in the operation. Parikkar said the operation was done without compromising any asset. He said not only strategic asset, but other buildings were also safe. Only one building, Parikkar said, where a terrorist was hiding was damaged a bit.
“The kind of complex structure which exists in that area ….when I saw it now, it is a commendable job because of so many blind spots.. you just cannot stop someone from running away from that area,” Parikkar said, adding that he would like media to be taken to the operation site once the combing operation was over.
He termed the death of Gursewak as operational loss and of 5 DSCs due to timing and “more of a bad luck”.
Underlining that Jagdish Chand gave priority to the country, Parikkar said, “I congratulate Jagdish Chand. Jagdish Chand virtually grappled with terrorist and killed him… courageous… and country was before his own life.”
Parikkar said all those killed in the operation would deemed to be considered as “battle casualty” and would get benefits as are given in war like situation. He said Punjab government had also announced Rs 25 lakh and jobs for their kin.
Responding to a query on bilateral talks between India and Pakistan, Parikkar said the decision would be taken after the NIA probe. He added that some of the material recovered was made in Pakistan. “To whom the terrorists were related, who sent them would be cleared once the investigation is complete and then we will take a call on such issues (bilateral talks),” he said.
“I can see some gaps, but I do not think we have compromised with security. Security forces were well prepared to guard such a huge complex spread in 1900 acres and having a periphery of 24.7 kilometers,” Parrikar said.
“My worry is how they were managed to enter. I congratulate (security forces that) they managed to contain them in corner (but I am) still worried how they managed to enter,” Parikkar said, adding that NIA investigations would make things clearer.
To a question about terrorists entering the airbase despite information about them well in advance, Parrikar said, “Army cannot perform civil duty to set up check posts on the passages”. He refused to comment on the state government’s role saying he was union Defence Minister.