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The shocking terror attack at the Pathankot Indian Air Force base marked a somewhat gruesome beginning of the new year for India. While combing operations are still going on at the air base, The Logical Indian goes through the attack and neutralization operation.
December 30-31: A group of six terrorists entered India through the Kathua-Gurdaspur border in Punjab.
December 31, Thursday, Night: The terrorists took an Innova car from a taxidriver, Ikagar Singh, who they killed near the Kathlor bridge. However, the car broke down shortly and at about 11:30 pm, they carjacked Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh and abducted him in his own car.
January 1, Friday, Early Morning: The terrorists had thought Singh to be a commoner, but on finding out he was a policeman, they pushed him off the car. At around 3 am, Singh gained his consciousness and alerted the local police about the terrorists. Allegedly, the police did not pay heed to his claims.
January 1, Friday, Afternoon: The center issued an alert about terrorists being present at Pathankot. The NSA convened meetings with senior officials and a band of NSG commandos was dispatched to the location.
January 2, Saturday: At around 3:30 am, the terrorists breached IAF base security. When they were detected with thermal imaging, attack copters were used to attack them with rockets. Four terrorists were killed by evening. 1 IAF commando and 1 jawan were martyred in the process. The Home Minister announced that the operation was over successfully.
January 3, Sunday: At around 10 am, NSG Lt. Col. Niranjan died in a grenade blast while inspecting a terrorist’s body; five others were also injured, of which 3 died in hospital.
At around 12:20 pm, firing resumed from 2 different locations, indicating more terrorists were still present. Security forces neutralized both terrorists, and all six terrorists were confirmed dead by Monday.
January 4-5: Combing of the Pathankot air base continues till the area can be rendered safe.
Other Facts about the Attack:
• United Jihad Council, a conglomerate of 13 Kashmiri militant groups based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility of the attack. Indian intelligence agencies had, however, accused Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists for the attack.
• All the terrorists were heavily armed and well-trained. Each of them carried around 6 kg of RDX.
• It is being suspected that the explosives and ammunitions were smuggled into India beforehand, as it is difficult for six people to carry so much ammunition.
• Combing operations might continue for a day or two longer, but high alert will continue till Republic Day.
• More than 1500 families are living inside the 20 sq. km area of the air base. Combing the huge area is taking a long time.
Questions Raised and Lessons Learned – The Logical Perspective:
• The Punjab Police were alerted five days in advance of a possible terror attack on New Year’s eve by intelligent reports from the Home Ministry. “…alert issued by the intelligence wing of Punjab that LeT is planning to carry out a spectacular attack in India possibly around New Year celebrations,” an intelligence note said, reports Times Of India.
Why wasn’t security strengthened on New Year’s eve following such alerts?
• Preliminary evidence shows that the terrorists entered India through a canal route of the Ravi river, where there may have been a serious technical security lapse as the thermal imager located between two BSF posts was not working, reports Times Of India. Reportedly, the same route was used by LeT terrorists in the Gurdaspur attack last year.
Why did such a serious technical security breach at a sensitive location go undetected or unreported? Perhaps more rigorous checks and technical upgradations are needs of the hour.
• SP Salwinder Singh and his cook Madan Gopal, who were abducted by the terrorists, reported about the incident and warned about the possibility of a terror attack. Allegedly, their claims were not taken seriously and no action was taken to perform a search for the terrorists. The locals were not even informed of the abduction. Gopal has alleged that he was instead tortured by the police after the attacks began.
• The Home Minister announced that the operation had ended on Saturday afternoon. Clearly, security officials briefed the Home Minister incorrectly and hastily. Perhaps a more careful analysis of the situation before reaching to conclusions would result in faster neutralization of the remaining terrorists.