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Pathankot operations continue for a third night

Last updated on: January 04, 2016 22:06 IST

'Given the magnitude of the operation of the air base, the operation will continue to be concluded till we are able to fully render the base safe.'

The Border Security Force has submitted a report to the Centre about the possible route taken by the terrorists who attacked the Indian Air Force's Pathankot IAF base.

The BSF claims there was no breach in the fence, but there were some holes along the International Border and malfunctioning of electronic surveillance equipment.

Senior BSF officers visited Bamiyal, a village located in Pathankot, and took stock of the unfenced and riverine areas along the border with Pakistan.

The Union home ministry had directed the BSF, which guards the International Border with Pakistan, to submit a report on the breach by the terrorists.

Officials said the BSF claimed in its report that there were no signs or evidence to suggest that the terrorists had breached the fence erected at most places along the border in Punjab or neighbouring Jammu.

However, there are numerous pockets and nullahs which are unfenced and the growth of elephant grass can provide easy cover to the intruders, the BSF claimed.

While some of the Hand Held Thermal Imagers and Battle Field Surveillance Radars, placed at places where fencing is not erected, did not pick up any signal, some of these equipment had a 'technical glitch', resulting in non-registering of any activity, the BSF stated.

After the Gurdaspur terror strike on July 27 last year, the BSF said a battalion (1,000 personnel) had been deployed additionally along the Pathankot sector.

The terrorists were suspected of having entered India through one of the rivulets, which are unfenced,in Punjab. The terrorists are believed to have taken the route often used by drug smugglers to infiltrate into Punjab.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, January 4, chaired a meeting of the National Security Council which discussed the attacks on the Pathankot air base and the the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

National Security Guard Inspector General Major General Dushyant Singh, who had earlier in the day stated that four terrorists had been killed, told the media in the evening that a fifth terrorist had been eliminated.

"The operations are still going on. We have been able to eliminate the fifth terrorist," Major General Singh said. "Combing and search operations are going on. Given the magnitude of the operation of the air base, the operation will continue to be concluded till we are able to fully render the base safe."

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who briefed the media in New Delhi on the National Security Council meeting, said four bodies have been recovered and "the remaining two bodies will be recovered."

The security forces, Jaitley said, were able to confine the terrorists to the location where they intruded into the IAF base and kept at a "reasonable distance" from where the fighter planes and helicopters were stationed. "All the assets are safe," the minister said.

As the government is said to be considering various options regarding the foreign secretary-level talks, scheduled for January 15, in the wake of what is widely believed to be an attack by the Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group, Jaitley parried a question on whether the talks will go on.

"The operations are still on. Let the operations be over. Then we will take decisions on these matters," Jaitley said.

Curiously, the United Jehad Council, an umbrella organisation of about a dozen Kashmiri terrorists outfits, on Monday claimed responsibility for the attack on the Pathankot air base.

The statement is seen in India as an attempt to show that Kashmiri insurgents were responsible and not terrorists based in Pakistan. The council comprises mostly terrorist outfits active in Jammu and Kashmir and headed by Syed Salauddin, who is based in Pakistan.

Briefing the media on Monday evening, Major General Singh said security forces including the NSG and Indian Army have deployed major combat elements along with medical and administrative support.

The IAF has deployed all its assets -- aviation, surveillance, guards -- in the operation, adding that the Punjab police and the intelligence agencies are working in sync to make the operation successful.

"All the assets of the air base including personnel, families have been secured and are safe," the general said.

Earlier on Monday, a powerful explosion shook a double-storeyed building at the air base where two terrorists are said to have been hiding.

"These terrorists are holed up in a double-storeyed building which is a living accommodation of air force personnel," Brigadier Anupinder Singh said.

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