Heavily-armed Pakistani terrorists on Saturday attempted to storm the Air Force base here, triggering a day-long gunbattle in which three securitymen and all the four infiltrators were killed, days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise stopover in Lahore.
With the obvious intention of destroying fighter jets and attack helicopters housed there, the group of terrorists in army fatigues attempted to storm the base which is barely 35 kms from the international border with Pakistan but failed to go beyond the outer periphery.
In heavy exchange of fire, a commando and two other personnel of the IAF were killed along with all the five attackers. At least, six security men were also injured.
“I congratulate our armed forces and other security forces on successfully neutralising all the five terrorists in ‘Pathankot Operation’,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted after about 16-hour-long operation.
Home Ministry sources said Singh tweeted after receipt of information that the operation was over.
The Prime Minister, who had taken a big political risk by going to Lahore, said in Mysuru that the attack was carried out by “enemies of humanity who can’t see India progress”.
He expressed pride in the security forces, saying they did not let the terrorists succeed.
The attackers were believed to have infiltrated from Pakistan and there was speculation that they may belong to Jaish-e-Mohammad headed Maulana Masood Azhar of the Kandahar hijack episode.
Security personnel, which included commandos from NSG, Army and Air Force, appeared to be preparing for an extended operation as the night fell and resistance continued.
The terrorists, who are said to have infiltrated three days ago, launched the first ever attack on an Indian Air base at around 3.30 am, their obvious targets being MiG-21 fighter aircraft and MI-25 attack helicopters.
Rajnath Singh did not rule out the possibility of involvement of Pakistan-based JeM terror outfit in the attack.
“The case will be probed by the NIA but the possibility of JeM being behind the attack cannot be ruled out,” he said.
In the wake of the attack, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar cut short his stay in Goa and returned to Delhi where he held a high level meeting which was attended by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and three Service chiefs.
“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,” IAF said in a statement after the meeting.
The terrorists 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, officials said about the operation which was supervised directly by Doval.