Pathankot: Combing operations were underway today to sanitise the air base here that was under siege for four days after terrorists struck the forward installation even as the focus shifted to the probe in the terror strike with the NIA chief arriving here for an on-the-spot assessment.
Indian air force personnel guard the air force base in Pathankot on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU
Security officials said today that the combing operations may continue for a day or two at the forward base where seven security personnel and six terrorists were killed. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said yesterday that there "is no suspected terrorist inside right now. (still) I will not give a negative report till the combing operations are over. The combing operations may be over by tomorrow".
He had said that the combing operation was for safety purpose as there are live, unexploded bombs besides rest of the ammunition. "Probably, they have brought high quality explosives," he had said. He had stated that the terrorists were carrying AK47s, modified Under Grenade Barrel Launcher, pistols, Swiss and commando knives, 40-50 kg of bullets besides 3-4 dozens of magazine and mortars.
Parrikar had also announced that all those seven security personnel killed during the attack will be treated as martyrs that will entitle them to all the benefits available to "battle casualty" like in war-like situation.
With the focus shifting on investigation, anti-terror probe agency NIA's chief Sharad Kumar will arrive here in the afternoon for an on-the-spot assessment.
Kumar had said yesterday that solving the conspiracy behind the attack was a "very big challenge" but recalled how the agency had in the past established the identity of culprits in many blind cases. "It's a very challenging case and a lot of investigation needs to be done. Therefore, I am not fixing any deadline to the case but we will try to complete the probe soon," Kumar had said.
Asked about the nationality of the terrorists involved in Pathankot attack, Kumar had said there was little doubt that the accused were from Pakistan and added "whatever evidence that is available in front of us till now is based on intercepted telephone calls between the terrorists and their handlers and family members across the border".
He, had however, refrained from naming the terror group responsible for the attack, saying "Let us work first. We will be able to establish everything once we have some evidence to support our claims. The case has to be proved before the court of law and therefore I will refrain from making statements on speculation."
The terrorists were believed to owe allegiance to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed. Kumar had said the probe was at an initial stage and refused to confirm if Pakistan's external spy agency ISI had a role to play in the incident. "I can't say whether ISI is involved or not. Let us see what happens after our probe is completed," he said.
NIA had yesterday registered three cases in connection with the brazen terror strike, including the murder of a taxi driver by suspected terrorists, kidnapping of a Superintendent of Police rank officer and attack on the IAF base on the intervening night of January one and two.
The NIA chief said Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) team was already assisting the 20-member agency team that is camping in Pathankot after the news of terror strike broke in the morning of January two.