‘Fifth and Sixth’ Pathankot attackers still a missing piece in probe

  • Rajesh Ahuja, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 20, 2016 00:30 IST
Indian Army soldiers stand guard at the air force base at Pathankot during a search operation in Punjab. Investigators are waiting to ascertain if there were four or six militants in the terror attack, sources said. (Sameer Sehgal/HT Photo)

The NIA has established how a group of militants slipped into India and struck the Pathankot airbase around New Year’s Eve but investigators are waiting for forensic reports to ascertain if there were four or six attackers, sources said on Friday.

The National Security Guard (NSG) which led the counter-terror operation maintains it killed six militants though bodies of just four attackers have been found.

“Our probe shows that at least four attackers entered India on December 30 afternoon from Bamial village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. They then walked to the place where they hijacked driver Ekagra Singh’s Innova after killing him the next night,” said a senior home ministry official requesting anonymity.

An investigator told HT that traces of DNA from one of the attackers who was later killed was found in the vehicle.

The NIA recorded the testimonies of Singh and his co-passengers— cook Madan Gopal and jeweller Rajesh Verma— to confirm the sequence of events.

“We have also established that the attackers cut the wall fence to enter the airbase and then remained hidden in the military engineer service shed for the next 18 hours before they were spotted by an air force drone,” said an investigator. “We have procured video footage captured by the drone that clearly shows four attackers.”

According to sources, the agency has also mapped the areas visited by the four gunmen inside the airbase. “We are waiting for forensic reports to confirm whether there were six attackers or four,” said a senior NIA official.

Investigators collected only ashes from the spot where the fifth and sixth attackers were purportedly hiding, with no bones or human remains found.

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