With National Security Guard commandos grappling to mop up the Pathankot airbase, 63 hours after it was attacked on Saturday, a tea vendor’s claims that he had spotted two suspected terrorists around 6 km away sent the security agencies into a tizzy.
On Monday, a large contingent of police led by Pathankot senior superintendent of police (SSP) RK Bakshi rushed to Manwal village, laid siege to it and also launched a massive search operation.
“We are not taking any input lightly,” Bakshi told HT.
68-year-old Surinder Kumar had claimed that two men, wearing backpacks covered by blankets, had stopped him at Upper Manwal as he went to open his shop at 4.45 am.
He said he had seen the “upper part” (barrel) of a rifle protruding from underneath one of the blankets. Kumar said the men sported beards and spoke in Punjabi.
The tea vendor’s claims soon spread like wildfire, following which local MLA Dinesh Singh Babbu informed SSP Bakshi, who sprung into action as the claims were ‘corroborated’ by a labourer working at a brick kiln.
Kumar claimed that men had also asked him to hand over his mobile phone, which, the tea vendor added, he denied having.
“I showed them my pockets… after that, due to fear, I tried to return, but they did not allow that and told me to keep moving ahead,” Kumar said.
‘Phone call from Pak’ adds to panic
Meanwhile, as mediapersons continued non-stop coverage of the Pathankot airbase siege, what caught their attention briefly was a girl who came rushing. The panicked girl, who identified herself as Manju, told the journalists that that she had received a call from a ‘Pakistani number’. “I did not take the call,” she said, “I have come here to tell everyone that now residents are getting calls from Pakistan”.