Pathankot/New Delhi: After a fierce gunfight of nearly 15 hours, security forces killed all five terrorists, suspected to be from Pakistan, who breached security and entered a frontline Indian Air Force (IAF) base near Punjab's Pathankot town on Saturday, officials said.
Police sources said that at least three IAF security personnel were killed and four others were injured in the terror attack that started around 3.30 a.m. The counter offensive lasted nearly 15 hours.
Police personnel clear bystanders on a road leading to an airforce base in Pathankot. AFP PHOTO
"I congratulate our armed forces and other security forces on successfully neutralising all the five terrorists in 'Pathankot Operation'," union Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted on Saturday evening.
"We have also lost security personnel in Pathankot attack. My heartfelt condolences to their families. We can never forget their sacrifice," he said.
Though the firing stopped around 9 a.m. after the four terrorists were neutralised, sounds of firing and grenade explosions were heard again around 11.30 a.m. The counter offensive ended after nearly 15 hours as a lone terrorist engaged the security agencies in a gun battle inside the base, located around 250 km Chandigarh.
The terrorists, who struck just a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's unscheduled visit to Lahore, could not, however, penetrate the defence cordon at the Air base which is located close to the border with Pakistan as they met with effective response from the security forces, police and security officials said.
The attack by terrorists, suspected to belong to JeM outfit, took place at around 3.30 am and three security personnel, including a Garud commando of the IAF, were killed in it, defence sources said, adding four terrorists were also killed by the security forces within five hours.
IAF was using its two attack helicopters to assist the joint team of ground troops to neutralise the remaining terrorists, the sources said.
Authorities said helicopters and other equipment at the Air base are safe. The technical area of the Air Force station is safe, police said.
The terrorists, with huge quantity of RDX in their possession, made their way to the base from the back side where there is a jungle, they said.
But they could not go beyond the 'langar' (eating place) near the outer perimeter of the IAF complex as the security forces were ready to take them on, the sources said, about the operation which was supervised directly by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
Anticipating an attack after some armed men abducted an SP of Punjab Police on Thursday night, a team of NSG commandos had been rushed here last night itself after the NSA held a series of meetings with the Army Chief and top IB officials yesterday. An army detachment was also positioned at the Air base, the sources said.
The attack at Pathankot Indian Air Force base is the second terror strike in Punjab within a span of six months. Following are some of the terror-related incidents that have taken place in Punjab between 2001 and 2016 (these do not include seizure of arms and ammunition during the period).
March 1, 2001: A 135-yard underground tunnel detected across India-Pakistan border in Punjab's Gurdaspur district.
January 1, 2002: Three Army personnel killed and five others injured when a group of unidentified terrorists attacks them at a firing range in Damtal, close to Punjab's border with Himachal Pradesh.
January 31, 2002: Two persons killed and 12 others injured in explosion in a Punjab Roadways bus at Patrana in Hoshiarpur district.
March 31, 2002: Two people are killed and 28 others injured in a bomb blast on Ferozepur-Dhanbad express train at Daroha, about 20km from Ludhiana.
April 28, 2006: At least eight persons are wounded in a bomb blast on a bus carrying 45 passengers at Jalandhar bus terminus.
October 14, 2007: Seven persons, including a 10-year old child, are killed and 40 others injured in a bomb blast in a cinema hall in Ludhiana.
July 27, 2015: Seven people, including a Punjab Police Superintendent, killed when three terrorists carry out a strike on a police station in Gurdaspur district. All three militants also killed.
January 2, 2016: Four terrorists and three security personnel killed when militants storm IAF base in Pathankot.