In what seems to point towards a lack of coordination between various agencies working to neutralise the terrorists at the Pathankot air base, Punjab police personnel, who were deployed outside the station’s boundary wall, were almost fired upon by the air force, who mistook them for terrorists.
Senior Punjab police officials said that were it not for the fact that they were inside the air traffic control (ATC) room at the time of the incident, all four men stationed outside the boundary wall would have been killed.
“The confusion took place because the policemen on guard outside the boundary wall had sensed trouble and were taking combat positions. One of them was lying on the ground with his weapons facing the wall. From the air, it seemed to be an aggressive posture and since all of them were also dressed in uniforms similar to army fatigues, they were mistaken as terrorists,” an officer said.
He added that the ATC got a message that an Air Force pilot has spotted four terrorists near the boundary wall and was waiting for orders to strike. “Since we were inside the ATC, we immediately clarified that they were Punjab policemen. We told the Air Force that they need not bother about anything outside the boundary wall, where the Punjab police had sealed the area and were ready for every eventuality.”
The officer further stated that the Punjab police entered the air base with a handful of its heavily armed men and covered the position gaps between the national security guard (NSG) and army troops.
“It was on January 3, when the last two terrorists were being neutralized. We took a position between the NSG and the army troops to cover a gap in the cordon around the barracks where the two terrorists were. We managed to give cover to almost a dozen air force men inside the building as they were being evacuated, thus preventing a hostage situation,” he said.
The officer also said that the first people to be evacuated from the barracks were foreign military personnel, who were residing at the base for training. “They were among the first to be evacuated. We did not start evacuation before shots were fired as there was no clue as to where the terrorists were hiding. Herding a group of persons together and moving them about without knowing the location of the terrorists cannot be done,” he said.