An Indian air base near Pakistan was attacked by militants. The deadly assault has been termed as “a heinous” terrorist attack by the United States. Blasts and gunfire continue to be heard near the military complex as army personnel continue to engage with the terrorists.
India’s Pathankot air base in Punjab state came under heavy attack from more than a dozen armed militants. In the ensuing skirmish, six members of the Indian Army have been killed. However, the army has managed to kill about four attackers so far. The standoff hasn’t ended, and intermittent gunfire and blasts are still being heard at the sprawling complex near the border with Pakistan, reported Yahoo.
Though no terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, intelligence report suggests four of the terrorists killed might have belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a highly active terrorist organization in the Indian sub-continent with suspected origins in Pakistan. While Pathankot Police Chief Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh mentioned that there’s a strong possibility of about one or two terrorists still hiding, Air Marshal Anil Khosla solemnly added, “The area cannot be declared fully sanitized,” reported Daily News and Analysis.
UPDATE: 1 Garud commando and 5 Defense Security Corps killed in yesterday's terror attack at Indian Air Force base in #Pathankot— ANI (@ANI_news) January 3, 2016
Indian security men who engaged with the terrorists indicated that there are still two terrorists who have been firing at them intermittently. Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi informed reporters that army has killed four gunmen since yesterday, while the remaining terrorists would be “neutralized” latest by Sunday evening. The number of troops killed in an attack has risen to seven, after four soldiers succumbed to injuries sustained in the daylong gun battle.
Seven people martyred, one Garud, five DSC jawans and one NSG-JS Dhamoon AOC, Pathankot pic.twitter.com/tvUAANlrZP— ANI (@ANI_news) January 3, 2016
One of the soldiers, a commando belonging to the elite National Security Guard or NSG, sustained grievous injuries after an Improvised Explosive Device, or IED, exploded. The IED was hidden underneath the body of a slain terrorist. Such booby-trapped human bodies are commonly used by terrorists. When a member of the security forces or rescue operations lifts the body, the IED explodes, increasing the body count.
According to regional news outlets, the operation to rid the Pathankot air base in Punjab is still ongoing. Local eye witnesses confirmed the army sent at least seven trucks with soldiers and several armored vehicles to the base, but officials aren’t revealing any information.
According to the official information from the Defense Ministry of India, the attack began a few hours before dawn Saturday. Militants are believed to have barged in through the area of the base where the living quarters are located. Though the defense department hasn’t released any more details, it is believed the terrorists managed to gain entry into the heavily fortified air base disguised as Indian Army personnel.
Shop owner Prashant hit by bullet yesterday in Pathankot. pic.twitter.com/GPesADfsVe— ANI (@ANI_news) January 3, 2016
While there are varying reports about how long the gun battle lasted, new agencies say intense gunfire could be heard for more than 15 hours. The air base is spread over an estimated 14 square kilometers and lies just 25 kilometers from the border with historic rival Pakistan, reported ABC News. The attack comes just a fortnight after India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, made a historic, unscheduled visit to Pakistan to meet his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. The surprise visit by Mr. Modi was hailed as a bold, game changing move, which was aimed at thawing the tense relations between the two nuclear powers. The two countries have never been on friendly terms for quite some time, and the unofficial visit by Mr. Modi was expected to revive the talks about long-term peace.
The Pathankot air force base is on the highway that connects India’s insurgency-wracked Jammu and Kashmir state with the rest of the country, reports Iron Mountain Daily News. It’s located close to India’s border with Pakistan and serves as a forward base for India. It houses many Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets and short-range helicopters. News agencies suggested that the militants intended to destroy the fleet, but haven’t succeeded.
[Photo by Narinder Nanu/Getty Images]