The National Investigation Agency will seek help of Pakistan in solving the Pathankot terror attack case once the identity of people contacted by the perpetrators has been established, the anti-terror probe agency's chief Sharad Kumar said on Tuesday.
Kumar, who will be flying to the Pathankot Indian Air Force base on Wednesday for an on-the-spot assessment, said solving the conspiracy behind the attack is a ‘very big challenge’ but recalled how the agency had in the past established the identity of culprits in many blind cases.
"It's a very challenging case and a lot of investigation needs to be done. Therefore, I am not fixing any deadline to the case but we will try to complete the probe soon," Kumar said.
Asked about the nationality of the terrorists involved in Pathankot attack, Kumar said there was little doubt that the accused were from Pakistan and added ‘whatever evidence that is available in front of us till now is based on intercepted telephone calls between the terrorists and their handlers and family members across the border’.
He, however, refrained from naming the terror group responsible for the attack, saying, "Let us work first. We will be able to establish everything once we have some evidence to support our claims. The case has to be proved before the court of law and therefore I will refrain from making statements on speculation."
The terrorists were believed to owe allegiance to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Kumar said the probe was at an initial stage and refused to confirm if Pakistan’s external spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence had a role to play in the incident. “I can’t say whether ISI is involved or not. Let us see what happens after our probe is completed,” he said.
The NIA had on Monday registered three cases in connection with the brazen terror strike, including the murder of a taxi driver by suspected terrorists, kidnapping of a superintendent of police rank officer and attack on the IAF base on the intervening night of January 1and 2.
The NIA chief also said the agency would try to identify the slain terrorists and may seek Pakistan’s help in getting the voice samples of those from across the border whose voices figured in intercepted conversations.
"We will ask them (Pakistan) to give us the voice samples once we identify these people," he said.
The terrorists had made several calls from the local mobile phone of a jeweller Rajesh Verma to places in Pakistan including Bahawalpur where they spoke to their handlers as well as family members, official sources said.
The NIA chief said Central Forensic Science Laboratory team was already assisting the 20-member agency team that is camping in Pathankot after the news of terror strike broke in the morning of January 2.
“We will also collect the DNA samples from the bodies of the terrorists which may come in handy in future,” he said.
The cases in connection with the terror assault were initially registered by the local police and later transferred to the NIA, a central agency that was set up after the audacious 26/11 Mumbai attack to probe all terror cases in the country.
The first case pertains to superintendent of police Salwinder Singh’s abduction and the second of killing of taxi driver Ikagar Singh. Both the cases were registered at Narot Jaimal Singh police station in Pathankot district.
The third and the main case, registered at Police Station Division No. 2 Pathankot, relates to the terrorist attack on the Air Force Station.
A 20-member team of the NIA, led by an inspector general-rank officer, has been camping at Pathankot since January 2 to supervise the ongoing investigations.
An officer of the rank of superintendent of police has been appointed as the chief investigating officer of the case.
The NIA registered the case under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Arms Act against unknown persons, official sources said.
The Pathankot IAF facility, located near the border with Pakistan, is the base for MiG-21 fighter planes and MI-25 attack helicopters of the Air Force.