Pathankot (Punjab): In a pre-dawn attack, a group of heavily-armed Pakistani terrorists, suspected to belong to the Jaish-e-Mohammed outfit, struck at an Air Force base here in Punjab, leading to a fierce gunbattle in which three security personnel were killed along with four of the attackers.
The terrorists, whose attack comes just a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unscheduled visit to Lahore, could not however penetrate the defence cordon at the base, which is abut 150 km away from India’s border with Pakistan, as they met with effective response from the security forces, police and security officials said.
The group launched their assault at around 3.30 am and three security personnel, including a Garud commando of the IAF, were killed in it, defence sources said, adding that four terrorists were also killed by the security forces within five hours.
However, more terrorists are suspected to be on the loose as gunshots were heard during the subsequent combing-up operations, defence sources said. The IAF was using its two attack helicopters to assist the joint team of ground troops to neutralise the remaining terrorists. The police added that the technical area, helicopters and other equipment at the Air Force base were safe.
According to the authorities, the terrorists possessed a large quantity of RDX and had made their way to the base from its back side, where there is a jungle. But they could not go beyond the ‘langar’ (eating place) near the outer perimeter of the IAF complex as the security forces were ready to take them on, the sources said, in an operation that was directly supervised by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
Anticipating an attack after some armed men abducted an SP of Punjab Police on Thursday night, a team of NSG commandos had been rushed here on Friday night itself after the NSA held a series of meetings with the Army Chief and top IB officials on Friday. An army detachment was also positioned at the Air Force base, the sources said.