Bringing the curtains down on Day 4, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said all six terrorists at the Pathankot air base have been killed but admitted to “some gaps” in security that led to the terror attack in which some “Pakistan-made material” have been used.
Addressing the media after a visit to the forward base that was under siege from Saturday morning, he said the terrorists were neutralised in an operation that was over in 38 hours but combing operations are still on and may continue for a day or two.
“There is no suspected terrorist inside right now. (still) I will not give a negative report till the combing operations are over. The combing operations may be over by tomorrow,” he said in reply to questions.
He said the combing operation is for safety purpose as there are live, unexploded bombs besides rest of the ammunition. “Probably, they have brought high quality explosives,” Parrikar said.
He said that the terrorists were carrying AK47s, modified Under Grenade Barrel Launcher, pistols, swiss and commando knives, 40-50 kg of bullets besides 3-4 dozens of magazine and mortars.
Parrikar announced that all those seven security personnel killed during the attack will be treated as martyrs that will entitle them to all the benefits available to “battle casualty” like in war-like situation.
Replying to questions on the reported security lapses, he said “I see some gaps. But I do not think there is any compromise on security”.
Once the investigations are over, things will become clear, he said, adding every security detail cannot be discussed and something should be kept for investigation.
Parrikar said that he was worried as to how the terrorists had managed to come inside the base which has a perimeter of 24.7 kms and located in an area of about 2,000 acres.
Asked about the Pakistani connection, he said there are indications that some of the materials used by the terrorists were made in Pakistan.
Parrikar said except the Garud commando, no one else was killed in direct operation. He was killed when the terrorists fired using one of the vehicles at the base as a cover.
“Five Defence Security Corps personnel died because more of a bad luck. One of them Jagdish Chandra virtually grappled with the terrorist before killing him,” he said hailing them as martyrs who made their supreme sacrifice.
Calling the counter-terror operation as “very difficult”, Parrikar said that all assets–strategic and buildings–and the families, were secured. The only building that was damaged is the one in which the terrorists were holed up, he said.
He complimented the joint efforts of Army, Air Force, and the National Security Guards (NSG) and said that they should undertake joint training in future.
Brushing aside criticism over opting for NSG for the main role rather than the Special Forces of the Army, he said “50 per cent of the NSG is made up of the Army only. All assets were provided by the Army and they worked together smoothly”.
The Minister said the initial focus was to secure all the assets at the base where 3,000 families were staying besides the foreign trainees from five to six countries.
Asked about the failure of Border Security Force (BSF) personnel in stopping the infiltration from Pakistan, Parrikar referred to media reports which said that “the BSF has already been asked to give details of areas from where terrorists could have entered”.
He said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is probing the case and it will not be proper for him to divulge details as it was the matter of ongoing investigation.
Parrikar said a security audit of all defence installations is being carried out.
According to the details given by him, the encounter started at 3:30 AM on Saturday and the last contact with the terrorists was made at about 7:30 PM on Sunday.
Parrikar said the operations after that was for combing purpose as there were a lot of live bombs and hence there was delay in retrieving the body.
He added that the body of the sixth terrorist was yet to be retrieved as a grenade is “stuck up” to it.
“I have said there is no need to rush,” he said adding that the forces should take its time to avoid any more casualty.
“We cannot take a risk. We have already lost one personnel in a booby trap. We should not lose any more,” the minister said.