NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force (IAF) said it had killed at least four heavily armed gunmen when they attacked its Pathankot base early on Saturday, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the suspected Jaish-i-Mohammad militants as enemies of humanity.
“We have recovered four dead bodies and are searching for more. Our men are sanitising the area,” H.S. Dhillon, a senior police officer for the Punjab region, was quoted by a news agency as saying.
An army official confirmed the operation had ended and personnel were checking the area for residual explosives.
“We want peace but if terrorists carry out attacks on Indian soil we will give them a befitting reply,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said.
A reliable Indian correspondent said that six guards at the entrance of the sensitive and heavily protected base were killed.
IAF claims foiling bigger plot in Pathankot
“Intelligence inputs had been available of a likely attempt by terrorists to infiltrate into the military installation in Pathankot area. In response, preparatory actions had been taken by the Indian Air Force to thwart any such attempt,” the IAF said in a statement.
The Pathankot IAF facility, located about 40km from the border with Pakistan, is the base of MiG-21 fighter planes and Mi-25 attack helicopters of the air force.
In a statement issued nearly 15 hours after the group of heavily-armed militants attacked the base, leading to a fierce gunbattle, the IAF said three security personnel were killed along with the four attackers.
IAF added that due to the effective preparation and coordinated efforts by all the security agencies the terrorists were detected by the aerial surveillance platforms as soon as they entered the air force base.
“The infiltrators were immediately engaged and contained within a limited area, thus preventing them from entering the technical zone where high-value assets are parked. “Through timely and prompt action by all agencies, the likely plan of the terrorists to destroy valuable assets of the air force has been foiled,” it said.
Mr Modi said “enemies of humanity” who could not digest India’s progress carried out the attack in Pathankot. He said the defence forces had the strength to defeat “the evil designs of our enemy.. Our security forces did not let them succeed. Proud of our jawans and security forces”.
The attack on the Pathankot IAF base is the second terrorist strike in Punjab within a span of six months.
Following are some of the terror-related incidents compiled by The Indian Express 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.
Jan 1, 2002: Three army personnel killed and five others injured when a group of terrorists attack them at a firing range in Damtal, close to Punjab’s border with Himachal Pradesh.
Jan 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.
Oct 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.
Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2016