Three IAF personnel and five terrorists were killed in a fierce gun battle after an attack on an air force base in Punjab’s Pathankot district early on Saturday morning.
The gun battle between the terrorists and security forces ended by 8 am on Saturday, said Punjab Police ADGP (Law and Order) H S Dhillon.
Gunshots rang out of the facility on the second day of 2016 as a group of men in army-style clothing launched the daring attack less than 24 hours after an alarm was sounded in the state over the assault of a top police officer by suspected Pakistani terrorists.
Defence sources said the terrorists from the Bawalpur area of Punjab were from the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist outfit and had probably infiltrated the area about three-day back. The terrorists attacked the airforce station at about 3 am on Saturday.
Border police chief Vijay Singh said the operation to eliminate the gunmen had lasted three hours. The airbase was being combed to determine the fate of the remaining attackers.
A team of 50 commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) was leading the fight against the militants in Pathankot, top security officials said. The NSG commandos were flown to Pathankot on Friday night in view of the security threat after the abduction and thrashing of Gurdaspur SP (headquarters) Salwinder Singh.
Watch: IAF Choppers in action as Pathankot Air Force base attacked
Police cordoned off the area that resembled a war zone, and army and air force personnel also swung into action, sources told HT in the wake of the attack reminiscent of the Gurdaspur strike last year.
A high alert was sounded while both Punjab police and central agencies worked in tandem and quickly mobilized resources to track and neutralize the terrorists on loose.
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, based on intelligence inputs, took the call on dispatching a battery of NSG commandos to Pathankot by Friday late evening. Soon after landing, the commandos were rushed to the Air Force base and an army cantonment at Mamoon near Pathankot while a major search operation was launched. Terrorists struck at 3 am at the air force base, and NSG commandos were ready to combat them.
In July, heavily armed men in army fatigues sprayed bullets on a moving bus and stormed Dinanagar police station in Gurdaspur district bordering Pakistan, killing six people and injuring eight.
Speaking on Saturday’s operation, DIG (border) Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh said: “Helicopters have been dispatched to the area for assistance in the operation.”
Reports suggested the terrorists were contained in a non-operational area of the air force base.
Pathankot, located at the tri-junction of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, has an army cantonment and the air force base. The spot is barely 10km from where Gurdaspur SP Singh was waylaid and assaulted on Friday morning.
The attack came close on the heels of an upswing in India-Pakistan ties after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise trip to Lahore last month and held talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif.
(With agency inputs)