We list five vital aspects of the terror attack at the Pathankot India Air Force base in which five terrorists of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed and three IAF men were killed in a day-long operation on Saturday.
The IAF maintenance personnel Ranjit KK who was arrested from the Bhatinda air base, 259 km from Pathankot, is believed to have provided vital inputs to the ISI about the movements of aircrafts and their locations at the two air bases. Ranjit was arrested for spying for the ISI and passing on information to a woman McNaught Damini in a case of ‘honey trap’. Ranjit, who was posted as a maintenance officer at the Bhatinda air base, is understood to have told his interrogators in the police that he supplied crucial information about locations of strategic assets at the Pathankot and Bhatinda air bases to the woman.
Though Pakistan civilian government has condemned the attack on the Pathankot air base, initial information shows that the country’s rogue intelligence establishment, Inter Service Intelligence, was behind plotting the attack with the aim of blowing up the base. Reports said that determined to keep the terror pot boiling despite resumption of dialogue between the civilian governments of India and Pakistan, the ISI convened a meeting of terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen last month at an undisclosed location in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). The ISI is understood to have asked the terror groups to carry out major strikes at strategic locations in India. Pathankot terror attack was planned there, according to intelligence reports.
Intelligence reports suggest that Jaish-e-Mohammad organised the Pathankot attack and assigned the task to six men who were trained at a camp in Bahawalpur. JeM was also responsible for the December 13, 2001, attack on Indian Parliament. The JeM is designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the USA, but it continues to flourish in Pakistan.
The JEM has been reduced to a marginal terror outfit operating from Pakistan, which led to drying up of its funding and induction of fresh recruits. The JEM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, who operates from Bahawalpur in Punjab province of Pakistan, was desperate to get the focus back on him at a time when Hafez Sayeed is seen as the kingpin of all the terror groups in Pakistan. Azhar has been a long-time India hater. He was arrested in 1994 when he sneaked into Kashmir to unite Pakistan-sponsored terror outfits operating in the Srinagar valley. He was arrested in 1995 and kept in a high-security prison in Jammu. Pakistani terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines flight at Kathmandu airport on December 24, 1999 and forced the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government to release Masood Azar along with two others.
This time, Indian intelligence network was able to sniff the terror plot well in advance. For the past several days, there have been media reports (based on intelligence inputs) of a possible terror attack. More specifically, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval told security establishment about an impending attack on Friday evening and asked them to be on high alert. The Air Force dispatched Western Air Command chief Air Marshal SB Deo to Pathankot air base on Friday night itself.
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