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NSG ignored plea to rescue 2 guards during Pathankot attack: Air force officer

The National Security Guard (NSG) “didn’t pay heed” to pleas for rescuing defence guards under fire from gunmen during last year’s Pathankot airbase attack

india Updated: Feb 07, 2017 16:49 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pathankot Attack,Pathankot airbase,IAF
Commandos stand guard at Airbase during search operation at Airbase after Completion of Terrorist combing operation in Pathankot. (Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times)

The National Security Guard (NSG) “didn’t pay heed” to pleas for rescuing defence guards under fire from gunmen during last year’s Pathankot airbase attack, an air force officer’s statement to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has revealed.

“I heard an RT (radio transmission on a wireless set) in which some DSC (defence security corps) personnel was yelling ‘one is dead and two are wounded, please somebody come (to) evacuate us, else we would die.”

I then asked Brigadier (Gautam) Ganguly (the NSG officer leading the commando team) to get one team prepared for rescue to which he didn’t paid (sic) heed to,” said the officer, wing commander Abhijit Sarin, who was asked to guide the NSG team sent to neutralise the attackers.

DSC is under the administrative control of the defence ministry and guards installations under it.

The NIA charge sheet, filed in a special court in Mohali recently, didn’t delve into what appeared to betray differences between the NSG and the Indian Air Force personnel in their operational strategies.

The charge sheet contained statements by Sarin and many other IAF officers who were witness to the January 2 attack that left six IAF personnel and one NSG officer dead.

Four attackers crossed over from Pakistan on December 30, 2015, and waited at the border for a day before entering the airbase early morning of January 1.

They remained hidden in the airbase for the next 24 hours and launched the attack around 2.45am on January 2. The army reached the airbase around 4.15am.

The NSG unit was moved to Pathankot following alerts by superintendent of Punjab Police Salvinder Singh, who was kidnapped on December 31 and released some distance away from the air base.

The attackers sped away with his vehicle after dumping the SP.

When contacted by HT, wing commander Sarin refused to comment on his statement. Brigadier Ganguly said he would speak only after getting permission from his superiors.

NSG sources, however, denied Sarin’s claims. “There was a chance of friendly fire. The air force personnel were firing and running ‘helter-skelter’. And it was the

NSG that rescued people. The statement gives one-sided view of situation. Besides, there were foreign students as well as families residing in the airbase area. The NSG had to secure everyone,” said an NSG source who was involved in the operations at Pathankot.

Indian army vehicle passes by a checkpost following firing and alleged bomb explosion inside the airbase in Pathankot on January 03, 2016.

In his statement to the NIA, brigadier Ganguly said that firing (at the airbase) was continuously shifting and moved towards the DSC line area. Later an army team headed by brigadier Anupinder Bevli reached the air base and surrounded the area with the NSG team. “By the first light (January 2), NSG and Army had cordoned off all DSC line area including open bushy area but we were not sure where the terrorists are (sic) actually hiding. It is to mention here that by this time one of the terrorists had got killed in a scuffle with DSC sepoy Jagdish Ram near DSC lawn area,” he said.

It was not clear from brigadier Ganguly’s statement whether the NSG team waited for the army team to secure the area or a rescue team was sent to evacuate DSC personnel before the army reached.

But brigadier Bevli’s statement to the NIA seemed to offer some clarity. “One column (around 90 to 100 soldiers) with mine protected vehicle was used to evacuate the

DSC personnel on the request of the IAF officer,” he said in his statement. He didn’t name the officer.

Wing commander Sarin stated that when the army team reached the Pathankot airbase, he was withdrawn and asked by air officer commanding JS Dhamoon to reach the VIP cottage area and “get the AOC-in-C secure”.

“Then I left my team and went to the cottage to guard our AOC-in-C. Then after completing it I went to my quarters. Later I heard that three (more) terrorists were gunned down by the NSG in the open area near DSC lawns.”

First Published: Feb 05, 2017 00:36 IST