New Delhi: The Pathankot terror strike is gradually being seen as a grave security lapse after heavily-armed Pakistani terrorists not only sneaked across the border but also managed to reach the IAF base and inflict casualties despite an intelligence alert issued in advance to the IAF. The government, though, has refused to accept that there had been a security lapse.
Home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said, “We did not know where they were going to strike in Pathankot.” He said the exact point of attack by the terrorists in Pathankot was not known in advance and that there was no way of knowing whether the attack was to be on an Army or IAF installation in Pathankot. Union home minister Rajnath Singh said in Assam, “If not for intelligence reports, the attacks would have been more severe.” The government is relieved that the terrorists were not able to sneak into the technical area of the IAF base and cause damage to the MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft or helicopter gunships parked there.
However, questions are being raised on how the terrorists managed to reach the airbase and eliminate six personnel (five DSC and 1 IAF commando) despite the IAF saying on Saturday that there had been advance intelligence. “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 had stated on Saturday. But not only were the terrorists able to enter the airbase, they also ran amok and fired on DSC personnel indiscriminately, killing five of them. Questions are being raised as to why the airbase was not cordoned off effectively and why the security forces could not eliminate the terrorists as soon as they reached the vicinity of the base.
Asked why the terror attack could not be foiled despite deployment of a large number of NSG commandos, the Union home secretary said, “When they (terrorists) attacked the airbase, the NSG team moved immediately.”
Air Marshal Anil Khosla, director-general (air operations), said the main aim of the terrorists was defeated as they could not reach the technical area of the airbase where high-value assets were kept. “The first contact with the terrorists was made on Saturday morning at around 3.30 am. The terrorists were contained in an area where there is heavy growth and shrubs. The operation is now at a matured stage,” he said.
The IAF officer said that after the killing of four terrorists on Saturday morning and afternoon, the operation was “slowed down” after dusk set in as the security forces were not sure whether there were more terrorists still at large.
“Due to effective preparation and coordinated efforts by all the security agencies a group of terrorists were detected by the aerial surveillance platforms as soon as they entered the Air Force Station at Pathankot. 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,” the IAF had said on Saturday evening.
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