Indian air force base rocked by fresh gunfire
At least two attackers remain inside Pathankot base in Punjab state after day-long siege declared over, officials say.
An Indian airbase in the northwestern state of Punjab has been rocked by fresh gunfire and blasts, hours after authorities announced that a day-long gun battle was over.
A senior federal police official confirmed two gunmen were still holed up in Pathankot airbase on Sunday, after pre-dawn raid on Saturday led to intense fighting in which four attackers and seven Indian military personnel were killed.
Saturday’s attack, 50km from the border with Pakistan, came just a week after Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, made an unannounced Pakistan visit to meet his counterpart in a bid to revive bilateral talks that had previously been derailed by armed attacks.
Outside the base, rumours had circulated on Sunday morning that more gunmen were still active after Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced on Saturday that five “terrorists” had been “neutralised”. The official body count was only four, however.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but India’s junior home minister hinted at involvement of armed groups based in Pakistan.
“We have credible information that this attack was sponsored by some elements across the border,” Kiren Rijiju, the minister, said in New Delhi on Saturday.
Pakistan, however, condemned the attack and said it wanted to build on the goodwill created by the recent high-level contacts.
“Pakistan remains committed to partner with India as well as other countries in the region to completely eradicate the menace of terrorism,” Qazi Khalilullah, foreign ministry spokesman, said in a series of tweets.
The defence ministry said on Saturday there had been intelligence reports about a possible attack on military installations in Pathankot, and that the air force had been prepared to thwart any attackers.
“Due to the effective preparation and coordinated efforts by all the security agencies a group of terrorists were detected by the aerial surveillance platforms as soon as they entered the air force station at Pathankot,” the ministry said in a statement.
Meanwhile, India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj met a group of diplomats on Sunday for for what was described by the ministry as “diplomatic consultations on Pakistan strategy”.
Indian media reported that the future of a dialogue between India and Pakistan will be decided in the next few days.