Pathankot op nears completion

1 of 2 holed up terrorists at airbase killed Lt Col among 7 dead security personnel

PATHANKOT (PUNJAB): Explosions and firing continued intermittently on Sunday night as security forces killed one of the at least two terrorists holed up at Pathankot air base on the second day of the attack in which military casualties including a Lieutenant Colonel of the NSG mounted to seven. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting on Sunday night with top officials including National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar in Delhi even as questions were raised by defence experts over the way the encounter with heavily-armed Pakistani terrorists was handled by security agencies. Defence sources in Delhi said that one terrorist was killed on Sunday while another was injured in the encounter that was on for nearly 43 hours, a day after four terrorists were eliminated after they struck on Saturday.

“The operation is still continuing and engagement with the terrorists is still going on, Air Commodore JS Dhamoon,” Air Officer Commanding, Air Force Station Pathankot told a late evening news conference. “The operation will continue till the whole of air base is cleared of intruders and any terrorists,” he said. Dhamoon said four terrorists have been killed and seven security men–one Garud commando, one NSG officer and five personnel of Defence Security Corps (DSC) have been martyred in the operation. Seventeen security personnel were also injured. Throughout the day, attack helicopters kept flying over the air force station to provide aerial support to the ground troops battling the terrorists who fired intermittently with the last round of exchanges erupting at around 9.30pm.

According to reports, the holed up militants were discovered in the forested area on the backside of the air base from where they are reported to have entered. Lt Col Niranjan, a member of the NSG’s Bomb Disposal Squad and a Kerala resident, died after he succumbed to injuries which he sustained while he was trying to retrieve a live grenade from the body of a dead terrorist at the scene of the terror attack as part of the combing operations that continued through last night. Four other security men were also injured in this explosion. Three Defence Security Corps (DSC) personnel also succumbed to injuries at the hospital here during the intervening night of January 2 and 3. A Garud commando and two members of the DSC were killed in the gunbattle yesterday at the air base, located barely 35 km from the Indo-Pak border. “We are sure that still there are at least two more terrorists as firing have come from two different places. But we are not sure whether there are some more. We will come to know the number of terrorists only after the completion of the operation and body count,” Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi told a press conference in Delhi. Former Western Air Command Chief Air Marshal P S Ahulwalia said casualties could have been kept at minimum through “effective coordination” adding the time taken to neutralise the attackers is way “too long”. (PTI)