NEW DELHI: The gunmen who attacked an Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot on Saturday planned it as revenge for the execution of Afzal Guru in February 2013. The surrendered Kashmiri militant was controversially hanged in Delhi’s Tihar jail by the Congress government amid questions about his role in the parliament attack case of December 2001.

The Hindustan Times quoted Rajesh Verma, who it said was abducted by four heavily armed men along with two others near Punjab’s Pathankot early on Friday, as describing the reason they allegedly gave for the assault plan. The abductors slit his throat and left him for dead.

“‘You killed Afzal Guru and now we will take revenge,’ they kept on saying as they continued beating us with rifles butts,” Verma told the newspaper in Gurdaspur.

“As it was New Year eve, my friend SP Salwinder Singh suggested that I come along and pay obeisance at the mazaar of a saint in village Kolian in Narot Jaimal Singh block close to the border.

“As we were coming back, four men in army uniform signalled our car to stop. As we stopped, the four overpowered us and barged into the vehicle and tied all of us with ropes and clothes,” Verma said.

Speaking from his hospital bed, he said that soon after they were abducted the men told them that they were going to attack the air force base to avenge the hanging of their colleague Afzal Guru. The Urdu-speaking men were carrying assault rifles and grenades as well as a GPS navigation system and had a clear idea about the location of the base.

Guru was secretly hanged and buried in the Tihar jail after his mercy petition was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee.

“As the car drove for around 30km, they dropped off the SP and the old cook but took me along. When we reached near village Tajpur, where they had intended to enter the IAF base, they slit my throat and left me for dead in the SUV,” he said.

“However, I managed to survive by controlling the blood with a cloth and I ran towards a gurdwara from where I managed a phone (call) and informed my relative who rushed me to the hospital,” Verma said.

The terrorists, Verma said, were unaware that they had kidnapped a Punjab police officer because they launched a search for the SP when the hooter of the car accidentally went off.

Verma said he had told the police and intelligence officials everything he knew, according to the Hindustan Times report.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2016

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