Combing operation in final phase in Pathankot 

Pathankot (Punjab), Jan 4 (IANS) Search operations were in their final phase as security forces moved to secure every inch of the Pathankot air force base on Monday. Occasional sound of firing and a blast was heard from inside as the counter offensive by security forces neared 60 hours.

“We have eliminated four terrorists and operation to eliminate two more terrorists possibly is in the final stage,” National Security Guards (NSG) Inspector General Major General Dushant Singh told the media.

“The operation will continue till all the personnel, assets and structure are physically combed. So it is likely to take a long time,” he said.

“These terrorists are holed up in a double-storeyed building which is a living accommodation of the air force personnel. The operations are on to clear this building from the terrorists,” said Brigadier Anupinder Singh.

The officers said the terrorists had come well prepared and were heavily armed with the aim of targeting strategic assets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the frontier base where a MIG-21 Bison fighter squadron and MI-35 attack helicopters are stationed.

A search operation was also on in nearby villages for possible terrorists. There were reports of raids by security agencies at some other places in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.

Saturday’s audacious terror attack started at 3.30 a.m. Four terrorists were killed on Saturday. The security forces have lost seven personnel.

The army, NSG and IAF officers said the operation would continue till the combing of the air base was completed.

NSG and army commandos conducted a thorough mopping of the entire area where the terrorists, suspected to be from Pakistan and trained by the outlawed Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) outfit, had been cornered, police said.

IAF helicopters flew through the night over the air base to assist ground forces.

“Army and paramilitary forces have surrounded the entire base, which is spread over a huge area and has undulating terrain, buildings and forest area which have to be searched very carefully to avoid casualties. That is why the operation is taking longer time to complete,” a Punjab Police officer said.

He said steps were being taken to ensure that no terrorist was able to escape from the area.

The four terrorists were killed by security forces on Saturday after a 15-hour long gunfight in which the NSG, Indian Army and IAF commandos were involved, assisted by IAF helicopters.

Seven security personnel, including one officer of the NSG, one IAF Garud commando and five Defence Services Corps (DSC) personnel, were killed by the terrorists.

Twenty security personnel, including 12 from NSG and eight from IAF, have been injured. A securityman who was grievously injured was flown to Chandigarh on Sunday.

The terrorists failed to destroy IAF assets due to timely action by security forces, Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said in New Delhi on Sunday.

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