Another militant killed at Indian air base on day two of shootout


Indian Air Force base at Pathankot
Indian Air Force base at Pathankot

Indian security forces killed one more gunman on Sunday at an air base attacked by militants a day earlier, leaving one assailant still suspected at large in the sprawling facility near the border with Pakistan.

Gunfire and blasts were heard as security forces hunted the lone remaining attacker in the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot, a day after the raid in which five attackers and six Indian military personnel have now been killed.

“We are conducting search operation. We are doing our duty. Senior officers will brief you about details,” said a local police inspector, Sukhjinder Singh.

The attack by gunmen disguised as soldiers came a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unscheduled visit to Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in an effort to revive talks between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Officials said the attack bore the hallmarks of previous suspected assaults by Pakistan-based militant groups, underscoring the fragility of recent efforts to revive bilateral talks between the often uneasy neighbours.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Pakistan has condemned the attack and said it wanted to continue to build on the goodwill created by the impromptu meeting between Modi and Sharif last month.

An army official confirmed the death of the militant as the operation to secure the base – used by MiG-21 fighter jets and attack helicopters – stretched into a second day on Sunday. He did not elaborate.

Indian leaders had already praised the armed forces for their heroism in Saturday’s 15-hour shootout, with Modi saying they did not let the “enemies of humanity” who attacked the base succeed.

But that appeared premature on Sunday, as the operation resumed to secure the air base in northwestern Punjab state that sprawls across an estimated 14 square km and lies just 25 km (16 miles) from the border with historic rival Pakistan.

Outside the base, rumours had circulated all morning that more gunmen were still active after Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced on Saturday that five terrorists had been “neutralised”. The official body count was only four at the time.

“Their plan was dangerous. We are proud of our air force, Punjab police and army, who shot them dead. We are sure that our security personnel will gun them down whenever our enemies try to attack the country,” said a local resident, Virendra Maan.

“Both the countries should launch a campaign against such people (militants). They should join hands to face them (militants),” said another resident, Ranjit Singh.

Military trucks were seen entering and exiting the walled compound, including a demining vehicle. Dozens of security guards continued their vigil, while protesters shouted slogans and burned a Pakistani flag nearby.

One of the Indian security men killed in the attack was Subedar Fateh Singh, who won gold and silver medals in the first Commonwealth Shooting Championships held in 1995, the National Rifle Association of India said.

 

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Story By Wangui Ngechu
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