The government said on Sunday two more terrorists were still holed up in the Pathankot air base and officials weren’t sure about the exact number of militants who ambushed the facility.
In the first official briefing after gunfire began, Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and director general of air operations in the Air Force, Air Marshal Anil Khosla, said four terrorists had been killed so far in the encounter with security personnel.
“We are sure that still there are at least two more terrorists as firing have come from two different places. But we are not sure whether there are some more. We will come to know the number of terrorists only after the completion of the operation and body count,” Mehrishi said.
Mehrishi said Salwinder Singh, a superintendent of police in Punjab who was kidnapped along with two others on Friday and was left off later, said that there were only four terrorists.
When asked whether there was any lapse while dealing with the terrorists as seven security personnel were killed despite having prior information, Mehrishi said: “There was no lapse. Some casualties are obvious when there is an operation in this scale.”
The two officials said there were seven casualties – six Indian Air Force personnel (including five Defence Security Corps(DSC) personnel and one Garuda commando), and one National Security Guard officer, Lt. Colonel Niranjan EK.
The home secretary said the team of the specialised force was waiting in Pathankot for the terrorists as the exact point of possible attack was not known.
“When they (terrorists) attacked the air base, the NSG team moved immediately,” he said.
Air Marshal Khosla said the main aim of the terrorists was defeated as they could not reach the technical area of the Pathnkot air base where high valued assets were kept.
“The first contact with the terrorists was made on Saturday morning at around 3.30 am. The terrorists were contained in an area where there is heavy growth and shrubs. The operation is now at a matured stage,” he said.
Khosla added that the operation was “slowed down” on Saturday after the killing of four terrorists as security forces were not sure whether there were more terrorists still at large.
Mehrishi said as of now it was suspected that Pakistan-bases terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad was involved in the attack.