Combing operations were underway on Wednesday to sanitise the Pathankot air base that was under siege for four days after terrorists struck the forward installation even as the focus shifted to the probe in the terror strike with the NIA chief arriving for an on-the-spot assessment.
Security officials said that the combing operations may continue for a day or two at the forward base where seven security personnel and six terrorists were killed.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said on Tuesday that there “is no suspected terrorist inside right now. (still) will not give a negative report till the combing operations are over. The combing operations may be over by tomorrow”. He had said that the combing operation was for safety purpose as there are live, unexploded bombs besides rest of the ammunition.
“Probably, they have brought high quality explosives,” he had said.
He had stated that the terrorists were carrying AK47s, modified Under Grenade Barrel Launcher, pistols, Swiss and commando knives, 40-50 kg of bullets besides 3-4 dozens of magazine and mortars.
Parrikar had also announced that all those seven security personnel killed during the attack will be treated as martyrs that will entitle them to all the benefits available to “battle casualty” like in war-like situation.
With the focus shifting on investigation, anti-terror probe agency NIA’s chief Sharad Kumar will reach the airbase in the afternoon for an on-the-spot assessment.
A team of more than 20 NIA investigators led by Inspector General Sanjeev Kumar is already camping in Pathankot. They are pursuing different leads and gathering forensic evidence from the air base.
The NIA is focusing on the linkages of drug cartels with the terror attack in Pathankot and questionable account given by SP Salwinder Singh about his abduction.
According to NIA sources, the role of SP Salwinder Singh is under scanner.
Kumar had said on Tuesday that solving the conspiracy behind the attack was a “very big challenge” but recalled how the agency had in the past established the identity of culprits in many blind cases.
“It’s a very challenging case and a lot of investigation needs to be done. Therefore, I am not fixing any deadline to the case but we will try to complete the probe soon,” Kumar had said.