New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday said it had recovered a "Chinese wireless set" from a car used by terrorists to reach the Indian Air Force (IAF) base at Pathankot which they attacked on January 2. The set was similar to one recovered after a failed assault at Samba army camp in March last year.
The anti-terror probe agency claimed that the car was used by the terrorists to reach the IAF base on the intervening night of December 31, 2015 and January 1, 2016. "Data in the wireless set was deleted," an NIA official told IANS here on condition of anonymity, adding that the set has been sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) here to retrieve the deleted data, if possible.
The official said the set was similar to the wireless set recovered from the army camp in Samba on the Jammu-Pathankot highway where two terrorists opened fire on March 21, last year, in which the militants were killed and three army personnel and one civilian were injured.
At the Samba army camp, the militants had used a modus operandi similar to that used at the Pathankot air base. They came to the military camp dressed in army fatigues and tried to enter it to destroy defence assets. However, they failed to carry out their plan due to the tight security at the camp.
The official further said that NIA sleuths have traced the route the terrorists took to reach Pathankot air base from the point of abduction of Punjab Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, his cook Madan Gopal and jeweller friend Rajesh Verma on December 31 night.
"NIA teams are collecting CCTV footage on the route taken by the terrorists to the IAF base from the point they abducted Salwinder Singh and two others," the official said. The NIA teams, headed by an Inspector General (IG)-rank officer, in coordination with Punjab Police and local villagers are carrying out searches on the routes taken by the terrorists to find evidence like clothes and electronic devices.
The officials of NIA's eight separate team have been conducting searches at those villages falling on the route taken by the terrorists to reach the IAF base. Meanwhile, the agency questioned Salwinder Singh at its headquarters in New Delhi for the third consecutive day on Wednesday.
Salwinder Singh's cook Gopal and Somraj, the caretaker of Panj Peer Dargah -- located a few kilometres from Bamiyal village from where the terrorists were suspected to have infiltrated into India before mounting the attack -- were also summoned to reach the NIA headquarters for questioning on Thursday.
Salwinder Singh had claimed that he was a regular visitor to the shrine and had visited it before he was abducted by the terrorists. Another highly placed source said the agency found inconsistencies in the statements of Salwinder Singh and Somraj as the latter in his earlier statement had said that the Punjab Police officer had come to the shrine for the first time before the Pathankot air base attack.
Somraj had also informed the NIA sleuths that Salwinder Singh's friend Verma and cook Gopal had visited the shrine twice on the same day. Six Pakistani terrorists -- believed to be from the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed terror outfit -- sneaked into Punjab from across the border and raided the IAF base at Pathankot, killing seven security personnel.
Security forces killed all the terrorists in the counter-offensive. India later said it had delivered "actionable intelligence" for Pakistan to act against those who masterminded the terror attack.