Six terrorists killed, combing operation on

Six terrorists killed, combing operation on

After operations lasting three days, security forces today killed two more Pakistani terrorists within the Pathankot air base with the government saying six of them have now been neutralised, but it was not clear whether all the intruders have been eliminated.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi today chaired a meeting of the National Security Council, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that bodies of four terrorists have been recovered and those of the remaining two will also be recovered.

The number of intruders had been put at six by officials in the last two days and the figures given by Jaitley implied that all of them have been eliminated. However, none in the government were prepared to say no more terrorists were inside the base or that the operation was over.

Combing and search operations were going on and that the operation will continue till "we are able to fully render the base safe", NSG IG  Maj Gen Dushant Singh said.

Jaitley, who attended the NSC meeting along with senior cabinet colleagues Sushma Swaraj and Manohar Parrikar, said that all the assets at the base were safe.

He said the security forces were able to confine the terrorists to the place where they intruded and kept at a "reasonable distance" from where the assets were located.

In the wake of the Pathankot attack as well as the strike on the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan, both probably originating in Pakistan, indications were that next week's scheduled visit by Foreign Secretary Jaishankar to Islamabad for talks will be put off.

It is likely that  National Security  Advisors of the two countries may have an urgent meeting in the next few days after which  a call would be taken on the Foreign Secretary-level talks.

Asked whether the foreign secretaries would meet as scheduled, Jaitley parried the  question, remarking "The operations are still on. Let the operations be over. Then we will take decisions on these matters."

Curiously, the United Jehad Council (UJC), an umbrella organisation of about a dozen Kashmiri militant outfits, today claimed responsibility for the attack on the Pathankot.

The statement is seen in India as an attempt to show that Kashmiri insurgents were responsible and not militants originating from Pakistan. UJC comprises mostly the militant outfits active in Jammu and Kashmir and headed by Syed Salauddin, who is based in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, briefing the media in the evening, Maj Gen Singh said in Pathankot that security forces including the NSG and Army have deployed major combat elements along with medical and administrative support.

Similarly Air Force has deployed all its assets - aviation, surveillance, guards in this particular operation, he said adding that the police and the intelligence agencies are also working in sync to make the operation successful.

"As I highlighted earlier, given the magnitude of the operation of the air base, the operation will continue to be concluded till we are able to fully render safe the base. However, I would like to inform that all the assets of the air base including personnel, families have been secured and are safe," he said.

Earlier in the day, a powerful explosion shook a double storeyed building at the Air Base where two terrorists were holed up.

"Till now, we have eliminated four terrorists and operation to eliminate two more terrorists, possibly is in the final stage of conduct," Maj Gen Singh had said.

Singh, who was flanked by Air officer commanding, Air commodore J S Damoon and Brigadier Anupinder Singh, said "the entire operation will continue till all the personnel, assets, structure are physically combed. So it is likely to take a long time."

"These terrorists are holed up in a double storeyed building which is a living accommodation of the Air Force personnel and currently the operations are in progress to clear this building from the terrorists," Brigadier Singh said.

The area of the Air Force base is "very large" where strategic assets of IAF are kept, besides families of IAF personnel and schools are located in it. "It is a mini city," the IAF officer said.

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