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Terrorists storm IAF base at Pathankot

With the obvious intention of destroying fighter jets and attack helicopters housed there, the group of terrorists in army fatigues attempted to storm the base which is barely 35 kms from the international border with Pakistan but failed to go beyond the outer periphery.

In heavy exchange of fire, a commando and two other personnel of the IAF were killed along with all the four attackers. At least, six security men were also injured.

The Prime Minister, who had taken a big political risk by going to Lahore, said in Mysuru that the attack was carried out by “enemies of humanity who can’t see India progress”. 

The Prime Minister also expressed pride in the security forces, saying they did not let the terrorists succeed.

The attackers were believed to have infiltrated from Pakistan and there was speculation that they may belong to Jaish-e-Mohammad headed Maulana Masood Azhar of the Kandahar hijack episode.
Security personnel, including commandos from NSG, Army and Air Force, appeared to be preparing for an extended operation as the night fell and resistance continued.

The terrorists, who are said to have infiltrated three days ago, launched the first ever attack on an Indian Air base at around 3.30 am, their obvious targets being MiG-21 fighter aircraft and MI-25 attack helicopters.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh did not rule out the possibility of involvement of Pakistan-based JeM terror outfit in the attack.

“The case will be probed by the NIA but the possibility of JeM being behind the attack cannot be ruled out,” he said.

In the wake of the attack, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar cut short his stay in Goa and returned to Delhi where he held a high level meeting which was attended by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and three Service chiefs.

“Through timely and prompt action by all agencies, the likely plan of the terrorists to destroy valuable assets of the Air Force has been foiled,” IAF said in a statement after the meeting.

The terrorists could not go beyond the ‘langar’ (eating place) near the outer perimeter of the IAF complex as the security forces were ready to take them on, officials said about the operation which was supervised directly by Doval.

Anticipating an attack after some armed men abducted an SP of Punjab Police on Thursday night, a team of NSG commandos had been rushed here on Friday night itself after the NSA held a series of meetings with the Army Chief and top IB officials. An Army detachment was also positioned at the Air base, the sources said.

Army had positioned two columns (comprising about 50 men) and a team of Special Forces at the Pathankot Air Force station prior to the attack, defence sources said.

Punjab police had also been put on alert and Additional DGP had been positioned in Pathankot to oversee the security situation, the sources said.

Army, Air Force personnel, helicopters, NSG commandos and SWAT teams had been engaged to counter the militants in the coordinated counter operation, police said.

Top security officials in Delhi said the intent of terrorists clearly was to cause maximum destruction at the air base which was thwarted in “one of the most successful counter-terror operations”.

This was the second big terror attack in Punjab in less than a year. Three terrorists had stormed a police station in Dina Nagar in Gurdaspur in July last year before being eliminated in a 12-hour gunbattle. 

Terror attacks in Punjab since 2001

Following are some of the terror-related incidents that have taken place in Punjab between 2001 and 2016. These attacks do not include seizure of arms and ammunition during the period

  March 1, 2001: A 135-yard underground tunnel detected across India-Pakistan border in Punjab's Gurdaspur district.

  Jan 1, 2002: Three Army personnel killed and five others injured when a group of unidentified terrorists attacks them at a firing range in Damtal, close to Punjab’s border with Himachal Pradesh.

  Jan 31, 2002: Two persons killed and 12 others injured in explosion in a Punjab Roadways bus at Patrana in Hoshiarpur district.

  March 31, 2002: Two people are killed and 28 others injured in a bomb blast on Ferozepur-Dhanbad express train at Daroha, about 20km from Ludhiana.

  Apr 28, 2006: At least eight persons are wounded in a bomb blast on a bus carrying 45 passengers at Jalandhar bus terminus.

  Oct 14, 2007: Seven persons, including a 10-year old child, are killed and 40 others injured in a bomb blast in a cinema hall in Ludhiana.

  July 27, 2015: Seven people, including a Punjab Police Superintendent, killed when three terrorists carry out a strike on a police station in Gurdaspur district. All three militants also killed.

  Jan 2, 2016: Four terrorists and three security personnel killed when militants storm IAF base in Pathankot. 

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