Intermittent blasts and exchange of fire to neutralise two more terrorists continued on Sunday night at Air Force Station in Pathankot, Punjab where four terrorists were killed, seven security men lost their lives and 17 persons were injured in the over 40-hour-long operation.
While earlier reports claimed that the two remaining terrorists had been gunned down, Air Commodore J S Dhamoon, Air Officer Commanding of the Pathankot AFB, told media persons that the operation is still on and engagement with the terrorists is continuing.
The Air Commodore said four terrorists have been killed, seven security men -- one Garud commando, five from Defence Security Corps and one from NSG have been martyred in the operation. The operations will continue till the whole of air base is cleared of intruder and any terrorist, he added
Giving details about the operation the Air Commodore said that on January 1 there were inputs that infiltration has taken place from Gurdaspur sector and the target is Pathankot area. Keeping in view the inputs, Air Force assets were activated, NSG, army, and police were mobilised. We took all measures at the Pathankot Air Force station, he said.
The officer further elaborated on it by saying that terrorists had entered the premises and one of the group of DSC was ambushed by the terrorists and during the engagement one DSC personnel was martyred and another injured.
The terrorists ran away and reached the DSC mess where our people were working in early morning preparing breakfast and they fired indiscriminately.
"As the militants tried to run away from there one of the DSC jawans who was not injured killed one the terrorists with his (terrorist's) gun but was killed by another terrorist.
Subsequently the terrorists were cordoned off and in the late afternoon three of the terrorists were killed.
Two of them are being engaged and the operation is still on.
During the day, five companies of army, armed with bulldozers, JCB were sent to the area to speed up the operation against the terrorists.
Throughout the day, choppers kept flying over the air force station to provide aerial support to the ground troops engaged in the operation against the terrorists.
Explosions rocked the area with high rise smoke clouds coming from the scene of gunbattle amidst heavy exchange of firing in the afternoon and evening between terrorists and security forces.
A group of terrorists in army fatigues had on Saturday attempted to storm the base, which is barely 35 kms from the international Border with Pakistan, but could not penetrate deep.
On Sunday, a fresh grenade blast ripped through the air force base, claiming the life of a National Security Guard commando, as three other security men succumbed to injuries in a hospital after Saturday’s terror attack taking the toll of Indian security personnel to seven.
Lt Col Niranjan (left), a member of the NSG's Bomb Disposal Squad, was killed while he was defusing the grenade at the scene of the terror attack as part of the combing operations that continued through the night. Four other security men were also injured in the blast.
Defence sources said Niranjan, a resident of Kerala, was killed while trying to retrieve the grenade from the body of a dead terrorist.
Lt Col Niranjan is survived by his wife Radhika and an 18-month-old daughter.
Five members of the Defence Security Corps succumbed to injuries in the hospital.
Among the casualties is Garud Commando Gursevak Singh, who was from Ambala. Singh, who had been hit in the initial burst of gunfire, had been married a month ago. But despite being hit, he carried on fighting and died before medical help could arrive.
Champion shooter Subedar Fateh Singh, 51, was posted at Pathankot about two years ago. He had won a gold and a silver medal at the first Commonwealth Shooting Championships held in Delhi in 1995.
The others martyred include Havildar Kulwant Singh, a resident of Gurdaspur, and jawans Jagdish Singh and Sanjiv Kumar.
A large cache of arms and ammunition have already been recovered during the sanitisation and search operations.
IAF helicopters were also seen flying over the base and nearby areas to assist the ground forces in the operations.
The attackers were believed to have infiltrated from Pakistan and there was speculation that they may belong to Jaish-e-Mohammad headed by Maulana Masood Azhar of the Kandahar hijack episode.
The terrorists were carrying Under Barrel Grenade Launchers, 52 mm mortars, AK rifles and GPS machine.
Based on intercepts, security agencies believe that one Nazeer from Bahawalpur in Pakistan was leading the group.
Defence sources said the terrorists sneaked into the nearly 2000-acre air base through a forested area where they were confronted by the Quick Reaction Team of Garud commandos. They managed to go up to 400 metres but were still 700 metres away from the area where the IAF aircraft fighters were stationed.