Firing still on, militants trapped
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap]fter a nightlong hide and seek between security forces and terrorists holed up in the Indian Air force base at Pathankot in Punjab, the picture was still far from clear. Sounds of intermittent gunfire is bound to rattle the policy makers in New Delhi. They are facing severe criticism for going the extra mile to court a neighbour, who is a past master in treachery and backstabbing. In this backdrop, the Modi government is likely to ask Pakistan to act against the Jaishe-i-Mohammed (JEM) within the next 48 hours. If Pakistan refuses to act, the Government may have no other option than to review the fate of the forthcoming Foreign secretary-level talks.
On Monday, the operation entered the third day but the security forces were yet to neutralize the terrorists, who have now been encircled in a narrow area. There is every possibility that Monday may be the last day in the life of these hardcore terrorists who kept the security forces on tenterhooks throughout the night. The security forces blew up a building to remove protection to the militants and are now closing in on them, reports said.
There was complete confusion about the number of militants holed up at the air base. Four of them are confirmed dead and reports of two more fidayeen casualties were doing the rounds on Sunday night. Since the firing still continues, the security forces are not able to effectively carry out combing operations. Only after the remaining terrorists are neutralized and their bodies retrieved that the exact number of the militants would be known.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]ources within the Government said that India is expected to convey to Pakistan that there was irrefutable evidence of the complicity of JEM behind the Pathankot attack and Nawaz Sharif regime must act against the terror outfit for the continuity of the dialogue process. The Government is also likely to convey that the ISI was instrumental in hatching the conspiracy behind the terror plot.
Sources said the Center has decided to send a stern message to Pakistan after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level review meeting late on Sunday evening and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj consulted former bureaucrats and experts in Pakistan affairs. Sources said that there was an overwhelming view in both these deliberations that India cannot be seen bending over backward to please Pakistan when it was hell-bent on carrying its terror agenda.
Meanwhile, Police sources stationed at the air base said that the firing could be linked to the mopping operation as security forces were trying to secure the area. Firing could be heard during the night and early Monday morning also. The terrorist attack had started at 3.30 a.m. on Saturday.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]”C[/dropcap]ombings operation continued (on Sunday). This operation is at the completion stage. The operation will continue till the whole air base has been cleared of any intruders,” Air Commodore J. S. Dhamoon, the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of the Pathankot Air Force Station told the media.
NSG and army commandos conducted a thorough mopping of the entire area where the terrorists, suspected to be from Pakistan, had been cornered, police said.
IAF helicopters flew through the night over the air base to assist ground forces in the counter offensive against the terrorists.
“Army and para-military forces have surrounded the entire air force base, which is spread over a large area and has undulating terrain, buildings and forest area which has to be searched very carefully to avoid casualties. That is why the operation is taking longer time to complete,” a Punjab Police officer said, adding that steps were being taken to ensure that no terrorist is able to escape from the area.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]F[/dropcap]our terrorists were killed by security forces on Saturday after a 15-hour long gunfight in which the NSG, Indian Army and IAF commandos were involved, assisted by IAF helicopters.
A gunfight between two more terrorists and security forces continued through Sunday. The fate of these two terrorists and whether there are more terrorists inside the air base is still not known as security officials were tight-lipped about operational details.
Search operation was also being conducting in nearby villages to ensure that no more terrorists were hiding anywhere.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]even security personnel, including one official of the National Security Guard, one IAF Gaurd commando and five Defence Services Corps (DSC) personnel were killed in the counter-offensive against the terrorists.
Twenty security personnel, including 12 from NSG and eight from IAF, have been injured. One security man, who was grievously injured, was airlifted to Chandigarh on Sunday for treatment.
Smoke could be seen coming out of the IAF air base in Pathankot, 250 km from Chandigarh, on Sunday evening as the gunfight moved to an end.
The terrorists failed to destroy IAF assets due to timely action by security forces, Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said in New Delhi on Sunday.