[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]ntermittent gun battles between security forces and terrorists holed up at the Indian Air Force base at the Pathankot throughout Sunday raised serious questions about the claims on the number of militants who sneaked into the strategic locations even as Delhi police fears that two of these militants of the Jaish –E-Mohmmaed have also managed to enter the national capital.
We are sure that still there are at least two more terrorists
– Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi
The killing of two more terrorists at the air base and death of another Army officer on Sunday showed that both intelligence agencies and security forces were clueless about the ‘specifics’ of the terror design. The Center had issued warning to the Punjab police and all security agencies on Friday night about the possibility of an imminent attack on some strategic establishment. That Pathankot was the target was also in the know from the movement of the terrorists.
“The operation is still continuing and engagement with the terrorists is still going on,” Air Commodore J S Dhamoon told reporters at a press conference in Pathnakot Sunday night. The Air Commodore confirmed that four terrorists and seven security men died in the operation, adding that the operations will continue till the whole of air base is cleared of intruders and terrorists, if any.
However, unconfirmed reports said that two more militants were killed in the encounter.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]W[/dropcap]hile Home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi on Sunday evening claimed that due to advance intelligence and proper coordination between the different security forces and intelligence agencies a major tragedy was averted, the fact remains that the terrorists were able to sneak into the heavily-guarded Pathankot airbase and gun down seven security men. The Home secretary was not sure about the number of militants even after 36 hours had lapsed since the operation was launched.
“We are sure that still there are at least two more terrorists as firing has come from two different places. But we are not sure whether there are some more. We will come to know the number of terrorists only after the completion of the operation and body count,” Mehrishi told a press conference.
As the encounter continued well into the Sunday night, former RAW Chief A S Dulat also joined those who questioned the failure of security agencies in preventing the attack in view of specific intelligence inputs.
“Generally intelligence agencies get the flak but here is a case when you had a pinpointed intelligence and still you could not make it. Why?” he said, adding, “How can the terrorists enter so easily without getting noticed and that too with such a huge quantity of ammunition? Are the terrorist also paying their way through like the drug cartels? These questions need an early answer.”
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he Government is also facing flak for suppressing the figure of casualties suffered by the security men on Saturday. On Saturday the Government claimed that only three security men had died in the encounter, while on Sunday it claimed six security men were killed on the first day of the terror strike. On why the correct numbers of those killed were not given out on Saturday, an IAF spokesperson said, “There are procedures to be followed and first the next of kin of the deceased are to be informed.”
The failure of the Punjab police in checking the movement of the terrorists despite advance telephone intercept about their design has placed the state government on defensive. In a clear move to shift the blame at the Centre, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Suskhbir Singh Badal implied that the terrorists were able to sneak into the Indian territory due to absence of full-proof deployment along the border.
“We are writing to Government of India that BSF deployment should be increased on par with that of J&K. The BSF deployment should be increased at least in this area (Gurdaspur and Pathankot) because this is second or third time such an incident has occurred.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]”I[/dropcap]f some terrorists manage to sneak from the border into our territory, we should look at how we can act as a second line of defence,” he said, adding, “I want technology to be used. We will see how we will act as second line of defence, we will have to use CCTVs, laser technology, ground detection system which are internationally-used across borders, specially this area, Gurdaspur and Pathankot… It needs to be done,” he said.
On whether there was any security lapse that allowed the terrorists to sneak in, he said “investigations have not yet started as operation is still going on”.
“We have our own views, we were convinced on certain views. Question is not Punjab border or Jammu and Kashmir border,” he said without elaborating.
The first fresh exchange of fire between the two terrorists and security men broke out at the air force base at around 11 a.m during the combing operation. The militants fired at the security men when they tried to retrieve the bodies of the terrorists. Earlier, an NSG commando Lt. Colonel Niranjan succumbed to his injuries when he tried to retrieve a live grenade from dead terrorists and the explosives blew up.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap] resident of Kerala, Lt Col Niranjan belonged to the NSG’s Bomb Disposal Squad. Four other security men were also injured in the blast. Security presence has been beefed up in the area and nearly 500 army men were deployed along with NSG and Special force commandos.
A commando and three members of the Defence Security Corps (DSC) were killed in the gun battle on Saturday. And three other DSC men died in the hospital during the night. At least 17 more security men were injured in the two-day operation. Eight of them are battling for their lives with serious injuries.
Meanwhile, Delhi police fears that at least two Jaish-e-Mohammed militants has sneaked into the national capital and were plotting some major operation including “hostage taking”. The capital was on high alert.
Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi held a meeting with its top officials and sough deployment of central paramilitary forces in providing security to vital installations and public places like as well as airports, railway stations and bus stands.
“Citizens vigil against suspicious persons/objects/ activities is vital to counter terrorism. Report anything amiss no. 100 or helpline 1090,” he tweeted.
While the police tightened the security arrangements, news came in that a bomb was planted at the Delhi-Lucknow Shatabdi express. The train was halted at two places during its journey and a thorough search was conducted.
“We have given instructions to put up barricades and round-the-clock checking is being conducted. Officers’ leave have been cancelled. Counter-terrorism measures have been put in place. Security around railway and metro stations has also been beefed up,” Joint Commissioner M K Meena told reporters.
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