In a pre-dawn attack today, a group of heavily-armed Pakistani terrorists, suspected to belong to Jaish-e-Mohammed outfit, struck an Air Force base in Pathankot in Punjab, leading to a fierce gunbattle in which three security personnel were killed along with four attackers.
The terrorists, who struck just a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's unscheduled visit to Lahore to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif, could not however penetrate the defence cordon at the air base which is located close to the border with Pakistan, as they met with effective response from the security forces, police and security officials said.
The attack took place at around 3.30 am and three security personnel, including a Garud commando of the IAF, were killed, defence sources said, adding four terrorists were also killed by the security forces within five hours.
But, more terrorists were suspected to be still on the loose as gunshots were heard during the subsequent combing up operation, defence sources said. The IAF was using two attack helicopters to assist the joint team of ground troops to neutralise the remaining terrorists.
Authorities said helicopters and other equipment at the Air base are safe. The technical area of the Air Force station is safe, police said.
The terrorists, with huge quantity of RDX explosive in their possession, made their way to the base from the rear where there is a jungle, they said.
But they could not go beyond the 'langar' (jawans' mess) near the outer perimeter of the IAF complex as the security forces were ready for them, the sources said, about the operation which was supervised directly by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
Anticipating an attack after some armed men abducted a Superintendent of Punjab Police on Thursday night, a team of National Security Guard commandos had been rushed here on Friday night itself after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval held a series of meetings with the Army chief and top Intelligence Bureau officials on Friday. An army detachment was also positioned at the air base.
Media reports say the attacks were aimed at destroying IAF assets at the site, but failed to do so. Doval has briefed PM Narendra Modi on the attacks.