A powerful blast killed an NSG officer at the IAF base near here and firing was heard inside on Sunday as security forces searched for terrorists still holed up after an audacious terror attack that has left seven security personnel dead.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced the death of the NSG officer, Lt. Col. Niranjan, saying he was killed in “mopping up operations” in Pathankot.
The minister did not give details of the death, but official sources said he was killed when a powerful explosion took place while he was trying to lift something in the air base.
National Security Guard (NSG) commandos and the army’s para-commandos (special forces) were engaged in a gunfight with terrorists still believed to be inside and have been cornered in one area of the air base.
Four of the terrorists, who stormed the sprawling IAF base on Pathankot’s outskirts, were killed on Saturday after they killed three Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel in the pre-dawn suicide attack.
Three other IAF personnel, from the Defence Security Corps (DSC), succumbed to their injuries on Sunday.
Official sources said one or two terrorists appeared to be still in the complex and were engaged in sniping at security forces who were trying to catch them alive if possible.
“Firing is still going on in the base,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (Border Range) Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh told the media here. “We were aware there may have been more than four terrorists.”
Saturday’s gun battle lasted for over 15 hours.
The technical area where the IAF’s MIG-21 fighter jets, MI-35 attack helicopters and other critical assets are stationed was secure, said the sources.
A thorough search and combing operation continued at the IAF base and nearby areas. The army, NSG, IAF commandos, para-military forces and Punjab Police were involved in the operation.
IAF helicopters flew over the base and nearby areas through the night and since early Sunday to assist the ground forces.
“The search operations are continuing. Everything is being looked at minutely. The operation will end only after the search is completed,” a senior Punjab Police official told IANS.
Security agencies were probing possible local support the terrorists got in the area after sneaking into India from Pakistan on December 30-31. The border is about 30 km from here.
At least four terrorists breached a high-security perimeter and entered the IAF base.
Uncertainty prevailed on the number of terrorists killed at the base, with Rajnath Singh withdrawing an earlier tweet putting the number at five.
Authorities finally put their number at four. All of them were reportedly in touch with their handlers in Pakistan even as they took on the security forces.