Anti-terror operation still on at air base

Anti-terror operation still on at air base

Day 2: One militant, two soldiers killed; another terrorist holed up

Anti-terror operation still on at air base

Exchange of bullets resumed between the security forces and terrorists inside the Pathankot Air Force station on Sunday afternoon after at least two militants opened fire at NSG commandos.

One of the terrorists was killed in the counterfire. The operation to neutralise the remaining terrorist was on till late at night.

On Saturday, when the military operation was slowed down after sunset, it was believed that all the militants had been killed. However, on Sunday noon, fresh firing was heard.

Two terrorists, who had gone into hiding inside the air base in the night, surfaced again.

Five terrorists, who were heavily armed with assault rifles, grenades, mortars, rocket launchers, GPS devices and state-of-the-art equipment, have been killed so far. Thick black smoke engulfed the air base as bombs exploded.

The security forces have also suffered heavy casualties in the operation with seven soldiers, including Lt Colonel E K Niranjan and a sharpshooter Commonwealth gold medalist sepoy, martyred. At least 20 soldiers were also injured, some of them critically.

On Sunday morning, NSG commando Niranjan, who was leading a bomb disposal squad, was injured in an accidental blast. He later succumbed to his injuries. Several other members of the squad were also injured.

The government, meanwhile, said it was able to protect the “air force assets”. Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said: “Due to active intelligence inputs and advance information, the security forces, especially the Air Force, were able to protect the air force assets”.

It is, however, still not clear whether there were more terrorists who had entered Punjab from Pakistan. There could be a possibility of the terrorists having split after entering Punjab to target locations elsewhere.

The idea of shooting down the six terrorists just when they were entering the base was not a possibility since the visuals caught by the aerial platforms had to be physically verified before ordering a shootout, an IAF official said.

There were reports that  suggest that a Pakistani spy and the dismissed IAF man Ranjith K K, who was arrested on December 28 from Bhisiana Air Force station near Bathinda, was aware of the attack. The arrested spy had divulged this.