Pathankot (Punjab): A day after terrorists attacked the Indian Air Force (IAF) frontier base near Pathankot town, search and combing operation continued on Sunday.
At least four terrorists, suspected to be from Pakistan, were killed in a gunfight that lasted over 15 hours after they breached a high-security perimeter and entered the IAF base in northern Punjab early on Saturday to carry out a Fidayeen attack.
Security agencies including the army, National Security Guards (NSG), Air Force, para-military forces and Punjab Police were involved in the massive search operation inside the IAF base and nearby areas.
IAF helicopters could be seen flying over the base and nearby areas through the night and since early morning on Sunday to assist ground forces in the search and combing operations.
“The search ops are continuing. Everything is being looked at minutely. The operation will end only after this is completed,” a senior Punjab Police official told IANS.
Security agencies were particularly investigating the local support that the terrorists got in the area after entering Indian territory from the border belt with Pakistan on December 30-31. The Pakistan border is about 30 kms from here.
“The Innova taxi that the terrorists used to travel towards Pathankot from the border areas is suspected to have been booked through a call made from a Pakistani number. This is being investigated,” the official said.
The taxi driver, Ikgaar Singh, 24, was killed by the terrorists on Friday by slitting his throat.
The terrorists had then hijacked the Mahindra XUV car of superintendent of police Salwinder Singh and slit the throat of his friend Rajesh Kumar.
Senior officials of the Army, Air Force, para-military forces and the Punjab Police were supervising the search operations since Saturday after the security forces neutralized the terrorists.
At least three IAF security personnel, including an IAF Garud commando, were killed and four others were injured in the attack that started around 3.30 a.m. The counter offensive lasted over 15 hours.
“We have also lost security personnel in the Pathankot attack. My heartfelt condolences to their families. We can never forget their sacrifice,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted on Saturday.
A fierce gunfight between the terrorists, believed to be from Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), and security forces had continued through Saturday after the terrorists entered the IAF base, located around 250 km from Chandigarh.
At the IAF base, MIG-21 Bison fighter jets, MI-35 attack helicopters, missiles and other critical assets were secure and the terrorists were prevented from getting near the technical area where the assets were stationed, IAF sources said.
The IAF, in a statement in New Delhi, said the terrorists’ plan to destroy “valuable assets” was “foiled” due to “effective preparations” and “coordinated efforts”.
National Security Guard (NSG) commandos, who had been rushed to Pathankot on Friday following apprehension of an attack, IAF’s Garud commandos and army commandos led the counter-attack on Saturday against the terrorists.