Wednesday 7 December 2016

India struggles to fight off terrorist attack at air base base

Sabtosh Kumar

Published 04/01/2016 | 02:30

Indian army soldiers take up position on the perimeter of the airforce base in Pathankot. Photo: Getty
Indian army soldiers take up position on the perimeter of the airforce base in Pathankot. Photo: Getty
Indian protestors burn an effigy of Pakistan’s leader Nawaz Sharif. Photo: Reuters

Fighting broke out again at the Pathankot airforce base in northern India on Sunday, bringing the death toll to at least 11 since gunmen stormed the site before dawn on the previous day.

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Seven Indian security personnel have been killed and about 20 injured over the past two days, India's home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said at a press conference in New Delhi.

Four gunmen were killed by Indian forces at the base in the state of Punjab yesterday.

At least two terrorists were at large and operations to neutralise them were ongoing, with reports of fresh fighting between the remaining gunmen and security forces.

The attack comes a week after Indian prime minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Pakistan in a bid to accelerate peace talks between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

The gunmen had crossed over from Pakistan and the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed may be responsible, Mr Mehrishi said.

"Due to the active intelligence inputs and advance information and the quick action taken by the security forces, especially the airforce, we have been able to ensure there is no damage to the assets of the air force," Mr Mehrishi said. "The apparent main aim of the terrorists stands defeated."

Pakistan

Pakistan's foreign ministry condemned the raid in an e-mail and said it was committed to working with India and other nations to "completely eradicate the menace of terrorism afflicting the region".

While the NDTV news station said the base housed jet fighters and attack helicopters, police said the gunmen didn't get near that part of the airport in the first raid on Saturday.

"We will give a befitting reply to any terrorist attack on our soil," home minister Rajnath Singh said in comments broadcast by local television stations on Saturday. India wants "good and friendly relations" with Pakistan, he added.

India blamed Pakistan for an incident in July in which six people were killed in Punjab as four gunmen dressed in army uniforms attacked a bus station and a police complex.

The raid on Saturday happened even after Punjab had been placed on a state of high alert on Friday after suspected Pakistani terrorists kidnapped a senior police officer, the Press Trust of India reported.

India and Pakistan have tried to minimise tensions since an attack in Mumbai in 2008, when gunmen targeted two luxury hotels, the main railway station, a cafe and a Jewish centre, killing more than 160 people.

India, which said that the incident was orchestrated in Pakistan, has accused its neighbour of using terrorism to achieve foreign-policy goals.

Pakistan has said normal relations can be restored only when the dispute over the divided state of Kashmir has been resolved.

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