Two Indian Air Force men killed in attack on airbase near Pakistan

Published: January 2, 2016
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP PHOTO: AFP

NEW DEHLI: Four gunmen and two guards were killed when unidentified militants attacked an Indian Air Force base near the Pakistan border on Saturday in an apparent challenge to attempts to revive a dialogue between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Officials said the gunmen, wearing army fatigues, managed to enter the Pathankot air base in India’s northwestern state of Punjab before dawn on Saturday.

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Once inside, they opened fire indiscriminately. They had earlier hijacked a police officer’s car and driven it to the heavily guarded base – tactics used in earlier attacks believed to have been perpetrated by Pakistani-trained militants, Punjab’s police chief Suresh Arora told Reuters.

PHOTO: AFP

The four gunmen and two guards were confirmed killed, according to a home ministry official. Sporadic gunfire and helicopters flying overhead could still be heard as an operation to comb the base in search of any more gunmen continued, police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. The attack came a week after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an impromptu visit to Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, in a bid to revive bilateral talks that had previously been derailed by militant attacks.

“The moment that Modi touched down in Lahore (and probably even before), something like this was doomed to happen,” said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington.

“At this point, there’s sufficient goodwill in India-Pakistan relations to weather this attack. Saboteurs won’t win this one,” he said. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh told ANI, a Reuters affiliate: “Pakistan is our neighbour and we want peace, but any terrorist attack on India will get a befitting response.”

His comments were interpreted by Indian analysts as showing restraint and indicating that New Delhi wanted to continue talks with Pakistan.

PHOTO: AFP

Sleeper cells TV footage showed armed guards outside the heavily fortified air base, which is located 50 km (30 miles) from the border with Pakistan. Police stepped up vehicle checks in the area.

Indian security sources said that, based on their initial analysis, the attack may have been carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed, or the Army of Muhammed, a militant group based in Pakistan that demands independence for Indian-ruled Kashmir.

“Punjab is also a corridor for drug smuggling and we are now realising that several sleeper cells have been activated in Punjab,” said one home ministry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The raid resembled an assault last July by gunmen in uniform on a police post in a Punjabi border town that killed nine people. However, Saturday’s pre-dawn attack was much more audacious in targeting a large military facility, from which India’s Russian-made fleet of MiG-21 fighter jets and Mi-35 attack helicopters fly. The state of Punjab and neighbouring Jammu were on high alert and all defence bases had been sealed. “Attacking an air base is a serious security threat.

The new strategy of the terrorists is to identify defence bases near the border and launch attacks,” said the home ministry official. Security experts say that tight security along the disputed frontier running through Kashmir has pushed the focus of militant activity further south towards softer targets in India’s Punjab state.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since independence and partition in 1947. The Muslim-majority region remains a bone of contention that India only recently agreed to discuss after months of on-off attempts to relaunch talks.

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“We have seen the same pattern again and again when there are attempts to restart the peace dialogue,” said Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi.

PHOTO: AFP

“It may lead to a momentary pause in the peace dialogue and attacks from the opposition for not pursuing a harder line but I don’t think it will have a long-term impact.”

Pakistan condemns attack

Pakistan, on Saturday, condemned the terrorist attack in Pathankot, India, in which precious lives were lost, a Foreign Office statement said.

“We extend heartfelt condolences to the government and people of India and the bereaved families and wish the wounded a speedy and full recovery,” the statement added.

The Foreign Office, building on the goodwill created during recent high-level talks between the long-standing arch rivals, further asserted that Pakistan remains committed to partner with India as well as other countries in the region to eradicate completely the menace of terrorism afflicting the region.

Reader Comments (55)

  • Skywalker
    Jan 2, 2016 - 6:48AM

    Good Luck India. This was expected after Nawaz – Modi meet.Recommend

  • Paa ji
    Jan 2, 2016 - 8:02AM

    Very predicable! The moment friendly overtures take place between 2 countries, somebody becomes active who does not want friendship between the countries. They may not be from Pakistani side. Very predictable!Recommend

  • hellboy
    Jan 2, 2016 - 8:11AM

    there will be no peace if you don’t neutralize terrorist and their infrastructure.Recommend

  • Boys?
    Jan 2, 2016 - 8:11AM

    Boys are never on board for peace since it will make them irrelevant. Civvies want peace. Nawaz and Modi and the people on both sides will support peace.Recommend

  • Lunch box
    Jan 2, 2016 - 8:38AM

    As expected. No surprise. According to the script. Nothing new in it.Recommend

  • AB
    Jan 2, 2016 - 8:52AM

    Smells like someone in india’s military establishment didn’t like Modi-Nawaz current overtures.Recommend

  • Jan 2, 2016 - 9:02AM

    @hellboy:
    They were from the Shiv Sena suicide platoon. You understand?
    The Paks want peace. it’s people like YOU who don’t. And are quick
    to jump to conclusions.Recommend

  • Jarhead
    Jan 2, 2016 - 9:05AM

    Thank God! finally Indians got a chance to escape from composite dialogues and divert international pressure to hold talks with Pakistan. Recommend

  • Barney
    Jan 2, 2016 - 9:10AM

    They are terrorists and not just gunmen. Thanks to people Pakistani courts let off, we are being attacked time and again. Recommend

  • Raj - USA
    Jan 2, 2016 - 9:17AM

    @hellboy:
    “there will be no peace if you don’t neutralize terrorist and their infrastructure.”
    How can you got there? The first step Pakistan must take is to publicly proclaim in clear cut and unambiguous statement that Pakistan does not support any groups that want independent f Kashmir and that it will no longer have any discussions or consultations with them nor will make any statements or object if India takes any action on any of those in India. Can Pakistan do it? Recommend

  • Kickass
    Jan 2, 2016 - 9:40AM

    @Boys?:
    You indeed are a boy from Qasur to talk like a fool. There are no “civvies” here. You may not like but do check with your type of boys from ShivSena.Recommend

  • Kickass
    Jan 2, 2016 - 9:43AM

    Do you know the distance crowflight from Pathankot to Pak border? Near Pakistan border is an exaggerated statement.Recommend

  • Sonu
    Jan 2, 2016 - 9:49AM

    Thanks Pakistan for new yr giftRecommend

  • PrakashG
    Jan 2, 2016 - 10:07AM

    Peace is impossible without resolving the issue of Terrorism.Recommend

  • Words
    Jan 2, 2016 - 10:14AM

    This is the saddest news on 2nd Jan 2016. It is very clear that there are some actors who do not want that peace should prevail in Pak-India. Everytime things start to get better, someone outplay them both.

    Stop this butchering on both sides of border. Allow people to live.Recommend

  • GHAZAL
    Jan 2, 2016 - 10:18AM

    pakistan army has gone to FATA only to fight terrorists not terrorism . To fight terrorism they need to visit quetta( shura), jhang and Qasur .Recommend

  • Last Word
    Jan 2, 2016 - 10:43AM

    I had commented immediately after Nawaz Sharif and Modi meet in Lahore that talks could be derailed by some agencies in Pakistan who are averse to the civilian govt taking credit for the peace process. In fact, such terrorists attacks in India and firing at LoC will most likely continue to disrupt the forthcoming dialogue process and even beyond. Kargil happened immediately after Indian PM Vajpayee visit to Pakistan so the same pattern continues till date is most unfortunate for people of both countries who want peaceful relations. In the present attack on the Air-force station, four terrorists and two IAF jawans were killed. It is indeed desirable that the Pak civilian govt and its military are on the same page so that peace process should continue uninterrupted. Recommend

  • Jan 2, 2016 - 11:05AM

    It was expected after both countries heads meeting.every body knows who are behind this barbaric crime.but the best way is that that don’t see behind go further,a the friend ship of both countries is the real defeat of these criminals terrorists and it’s masters.Recommend

  • Haider Rehman
    Jan 2, 2016 - 12:11PM

    An excuse for India to stop talks.Recommend

  • Human
    Jan 2, 2016 - 12:18PM

    Just saw an Indian channel wherein the statement of locals was immediately interrupted and took off air the moment they mentioned that last evening the area around the Base entrance was cleared by the authorities and people told to stay away!
    This seems even worse prepared by the Indians than the Mumbai fiasco wherein mention of all loopholes in theofficial story was banned by the Indian side!
    A staged drama! Pakistan has nothing to be concerned about. Another bunch of fabrications on their way. Recommend

  • Raju Indian
    Jan 2, 2016 - 12:24PM

    India made a repeat error in trying to meet Nawaz – just like in Kargil, the poor boy can barely save his behind. Look at how US deals with Pak – first there is a cosmetic meeting with Nawaz where even the senior most US guys avoid to spend time (any signed deals, or outcomes except shell statements and reprimands?). Then Raheel is asked to come over for direct deals and funding is announced. India is dealing with the wrong power center for too long but does not want to call spade a spade openly.Recommend

  • Jan 2, 2016 - 1:28PM

    Who will take responsibility of this attack? Al-Qaeda, JUD, Daesh or Taliban Recommend

  • Zen
    Jan 2, 2016 - 1:46PM

    Okay, we both want peace. There will be a Commission into this attack. Will people agree with the outcome of this report or will they all dive into denials and conspiracies? Trillion dollar question.Recommend

  • TM
    Jan 2, 2016 - 2:20PM

    Why India and Pakistan can’t identify the 3rd Party who has benefits with the disputes among two permanent and natural neighbors??? Recommend

  • abhi
    Jan 2, 2016 - 3:06PM

    Pak military need to try something else, this was too predictable this time.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jan 2, 2016 - 3:23PM

    @Raj – USA:

    there will be no peace if you don’t neutralize terrorist and their infrastructure.”

    Stop parroting your american hymn on terrorism to camuflage the resistance against the use of brutal military force in the region.. People all over the world yearn for independence not dependence, freedom and not slavery, democracy and not military backed dictatorship, if you have not understood this in Americas then you will never understand the 21st century world.

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • naeemhussain
    Jan 2, 2016 - 4:58PM

    Nothing new it is typical of India. India can never be honest to have friendship with Pakistan. It is their own conspiracy of the people who do not want to have normal relationship with Pakistan. India is involved in state sponsored terrorism not only in Pakistan but every single country of our region.Recommend

  • Progressive Pakistan
    Jan 2, 2016 - 5:09PM

    This terror monster is getting out of hand. Pakistan needs to do the following actions immediately:
    1. Take Indian leadership in confidence (This is basic humanity and not bowing down to some one).
    2. Initiate a heavy crackdown on militancy in Punjab and AJK. This nonsense which is based on outdated mindsets is already costing Pakistan its progress, image and direction.
    3. Obtain guarantee from India that once this militancy is eradicated Kashmir will be discussed for a serious and long lasting solution. This has to be based on geopolitical realities and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
    4. Make hate speech a crime punishable by the longest sentences in Pakistani law.
    5. Deweaponsise Pakistan starting with Madrasas and Jihad training camps.
    6. India should assure that it will suspend, stop and reverse all material and monetary support to Taliban, Mangal Bagh, BLA and BRA.
    7. The dialogue process should not derail due to adrenaline rush due to this incident. Dialogue and positive partnership is must to stop terror together and make progress.Recommend

  • Haider
    Jan 2, 2016 - 5:09PM

    To all Indians…We want peace…Everyone is serious here…..We cant afford this cold war..
    So its better we together eliminate forces trying to create problems as we also are being attacked.
    My fellow Indians and Pakistanis we need to be firm and together mitigate this issue rather than playing blame games again and againRecommend

  • Somebody
    Jan 2, 2016 - 6:43PM

    @Sonu:
    Thanks but no thanks for accusing us. Typical mindset!Recommend

  • Jan 2, 2016 - 7:09PM

    @AB: People of Pakistan are not aware that nowhere in the world except Pakistan the Army has no powers to pursue an independent foreign policy it is the civil government of the day that decides and army only implements. So your guess and hint about Indian Army is out of synk. Recommend

  • Jan 2, 2016 - 7:25PM

    The writer has very well put the truth ““The moment that Modi touched down in Lahore (and probably even before), something like this was doomed to happen,” said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington.
    Yes we know those whose bread butter and jam depends on this bitterness.Recommend

  • ABK Ind
    Jan 2, 2016 - 8:44PM

    @naeemhussain:
    ur are talking about trust, have u seen or read the Musharaf Interview where he is proud of Kargil & openly admits that it was his initiation & plan. but at that time every one blamed it on Non state Actors & not the Armed forces.Recommend

  • Naeem Khan
    Jan 2, 2016 - 9:21PM

    These terrorist wanted to derail the peace and trade initiative between the two neighbors and they should not get this chance at all. I like to see that the Indian security services publish the pictures and identities of these terrorists and let the Pakistani government take stern action against their handlers if indeed they are Pakistanis. It is time that both the governments to take the gloves off in tandem against these terrorists and their sponsors who ever they may be.Recommend

  • mushroom
    Jan 2, 2016 - 9:50PM

    Peace ✌Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jan 2, 2016 - 10:12PM

    Both India and Pakistan with should form an independent unbiased commission to investigate this incident. Two thing which has bothered me are that when terrorists hijacked police vehicle and kidnapped a high level police officer, they just dropped him off. If terrorists were on killing mission, then why did they leave an ace and went for poor soldiers. Secondly, how come everyone already knew the identity and motive of terrorists?Recommend

  • HZR
    Jan 2, 2016 - 10:30PM

    These are the same elements who do not want normal relations between India and Pakistan.If peace prevails they will be sidelined and there will be no takers for their idea of a nation …in perpetual turmoil and poverty.They should be ruthlessly suppressed.maybe it is time for both nations to come thereto and fight them jointly.Recommend

  • Jan 2, 2016 - 11:48PM

    Has India been caught again with its pants down?

    India needs to explain the reasons for removing base barriers and forceful closing of shops at 5PM (normal shops closing time in India is 8PM) on 1/1/16, as reported by the Indian TV.
    It is so simple that had the barriers been not removed himself by the Indian authorities, (as openly reported by the Indian TV) how could the attackers have entered the air base?
    Who can forget boat burning drama by the enacted by the Indians on 31/12/15?
    Have a heart India, try some better tricks for the next false flag.Recommend

  • Truth
    Jan 2, 2016 - 11:56PM

    Like Vajpayee, like Modi.
    Chankiya followers at it again..Recommend

  • Progressive Pakistan
    Jan 2, 2016 - 11:59PM

    I have a new name and suggestion for the future relationship of Pakistan and India. We both should unite against terror and be “partners against terror”. As long as there is one even sane and good nature Pakistani and Indian we have solid chances of succeeding. Lets not waste our precious energy in blame game and history bashing. This terror net work is a terror and is threatening to rob us the potential we can achieve. What India has achieved is impressive but what China, Japan and others in Europe have achieved is where we want to be. We cannot do this without the help of younger brother Pakistan and Elder brother India. Long live our friendship and long live this dream of partners and not rivals. Lets me like Canada and USA, Germany and France or Norway and Sweden.Recommend

  • An Indian
    Jan 3, 2016 - 1:28AM

    @Human:
    Yes, we know the entire world falsely blames Muslims and Pakistan for terror attacks (like 9/11, 26/11, OBL, Paris attacks and the list goes on).Recommend

  • Cool Girls
    Jan 3, 2016 - 1:34AM

    @Boys?:
    Nothing happens in Pakistan without the consent of Boys, have you forgotten the favourite cliche of Indians, so how come Modi’s visit wasn’t sanctioned by the Boys? You Indians make a theory and then discard it yourself. I’ll advice you to stick to one thing. Nothing happens in Pakistan without the consent of Boys because NS would not dare upset the hornet’s nest the second time. Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Jan 3, 2016 - 2:02AM

    Typical cowardly Endian chankiya false flag attack. Always blaming Pakistan for their cowardly attacks. Stop dreaming about akhand bharat. Than we will respond with greater Pakistan. Stop bullying your neighbours. Recommend

  • Tommy Gunn
    Jan 3, 2016 - 4:34AM

    @Human: Concpiracy theorists like you whi keep their heads burried are the biggest hinderences to peace anywhere. You say this attack like the Mumbai attacks was “staged” even though your government accepted that all the terrorists who conducted the attacks were Pakistanis. Unless you start giving respect to to innocent indians who were victims of terrorism which was initiated from your side by acknowledging this fact, there can indeed be no peace.Recommend

  • Politically Incorrect
    Jan 3, 2016 - 4:36AM

    Looks like Pakistani “non state actors” have been activated again.Recommend

  • LS
    Jan 3, 2016 - 4:59AM

    @Haider:
    No you don’t… Every peace discussion is followed by attacks like a clockwork. Yet Pakistani’s keep saying they want peace. 90% of Pakistnai’s think that these attacks are orchestrated by people in India and Pakistan is a pious country that has never indulged in Terrorism as a state policy.Recommend

  • Ashfaq
    Jan 3, 2016 - 5:23AM

    Boys in the establishment are not onboard as we have not seen any statement from Gen Raheel who otherwise is very vocal on every front. The peace moves can serve to isolate him against popular opinion. Let there be peace so that hundreds of sacrifices by both armies do not go in vain.Recommend

  • oz indian
    Jan 3, 2016 - 5:30AM

    @Human: Area was Cleared by authorities because there was credible information about four to six terrorists have crossed the border and kidnapped a police jeep with superintendent of police, they killed Driver of that vehicle immediately and took SP with them. These terrorists were heavily armed so all the nearby instalments were put into high alert.
    I also read people above commenting that this attack is carried out by shiv sena. This is where Pakistani news channel propaganda( Backed by security establishment) comes into action. For all of Pakistani readers information, max Shiv sena goons can do are things like- put black ink on someone, damage a cricket pitch, protest against a movie star. They don’t have even small rifles let alone grenades and ak 47s.
    I also genuinely believe Nawaz Govt doesn’t knew about this plan but they have to change their policy to fund organisations like Hafiz Sayed’s.
    Dialogues should go on. Recommend

  • Naeem Khan
    Jan 3, 2016 - 6:00AM

    @Raj – USA:
    why can’t India accept the will of Kashmiri people and have a plebiscite as promised in the United Nation. Let the People there decide their fate, they might just want to live as a free and an independent country and be member of the UN with out aligning themselves either with Pakistan or India. Let me remind you that Kashmir is a disputed area and it was your government who was signatory to the plebiscite. Indian soldiers has killed more than 80,000 Kashmiris in the last 10 years and committed rapes of their women folks. How long they will have to suffer the atrocities by the hands of Indian soldiers. Recommend

  • Uday
    Jan 3, 2016 - 6:22AM

    @Haider:
    Then what prevents Pakistan to take effective action against terrorists like LeT JeM etc?
    How come their sanctuaries are being protected by thr government agencies?Recommend

  • Peace Pujari
    Jan 3, 2016 - 7:10AM

    @LS:
    Right, Samjhotha Express was done by Pakistan, Mecca bombing in Mumbai was done by Pakistan, Malaygaon bombing was done by Pakistan, New year boat drama was orchestrated by Pakistan , not to talk of various other dramas in Bollywood style that Pakistan keeps on doing. India? well, Indians are devtas, devian, dasian and avtars, never ever naughty. Right?Recommend

  • komal s
    Jan 3, 2016 - 7:15AM

    @Haider Rehman:
    Expect Modi govt to talk tough with Sharifs on this one. The tough talking is not going to happen in the public glare of the media. Recommend

  • Jangu
    Jan 3, 2016 - 7:53AM

    @oz Indian are you looking or listening to Pakistani channel? No one has uttered the word shiv sena. Now you people need to stop believing to your hawkish media which is playing a major part in shaping a narrative against Pakistan. The Indian public laps up like a sponge whatever junk your media churns out. On our side no one has said anything except that things have happened in the past like new yr boat drama or samjhotha express in which Pakistan was not involved. BTW, when everyone knew that alert has been called still these dumbo terrorists went ahead and attacked. Must be very stupid ones. And gone are the days when LeT and LeM were getting money. Now a days their leaders are being killed in encounters but India will get the news a bit late being ingnorant nation. Recommend

  • brar
    Jan 5, 2016 - 5:30PM

    @AB:
    @Lunch box:
    we never worship our Generals yes we respect them ut in Pakistan COAS is more important than PM and you will always spin conspiracy theories what can we do ? Raheel Sharif is hero but majority of Indian did not know who is their COAS and this is difference.Recommend

  • INDIAN
    Jan 5, 2016 - 7:21PM

    This type of attack was very much expected post peace initiative , since this is a ploy of disruptive elements to derail any peace initiative between the two nations .Its not that post Modiji visit they recruited and trained for assault , these sanctuaries were already breeding and would have been planning to attack but post Modiji’s visit , to perpetrate terror was more urgent.They know if hatred between the two nations continue , it will be easy to get local support as well as candidates for recruitment .These elements may not be in control of Pak Govt. Pakistan is controlled by 3 forces , Govt. , Army and Militias . Pakistan Govt. has to know show concrete actions taken since international pressure will be now more than ever post peace initiative . I believe Pakistani Civil society should strongly protest so that these Jihadi element and also ISIS gets a message that Muslims condemn misuse of Islam and this will also generate goodwill .Recommend

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