IAF Expected Pathankot Attack, Locals Were Warned In Advance

03/01/2016 8:12 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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PATHANKOT, INDIA - JANUARY 2: Security personnel guarding the road leading to Pathankot Air Force Station at Dhaki Chowk during an ongoing attack on the base in the northern Indian state of Punjab by suspected militants on January 2, 2016, in Pathankot, India. Suspected Islamist gunmen have staged a pre-dawn attack on a key Indian air base near the Pakistan border with two militants killed in a shootout, officials said, striking a blow to the neighbours' fragile peace process at Pathankot. Four terrorists and three Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel were killed in an attack on an air force base in Punjabs Pathankot district early on Saturday morning, setting alarm bells ringing across the country. A team of 50 commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) led the fight against the militants at the air force base, a top security official said. (Photo By Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

PATHANKOT -- It was an attack that was anticipated by the security establishment and local shopkeepers had been cautioned about it well in advance.

And as per the anticipation, the attack did take place and locals in Dhaki Chowk in Pathankot woke up to the sound of gunfire and blasts in the dead of the night at 3.30 am when terrorists struck at the IAF base here.

"We were asked by the police to close down our establishments after abduction of an SP (on Thursday night) and recovery of his vehicle from near Palta Sahib Gurudwara (yesterday). It triggered fear among us of a possible terror attack," said Rahul, who runs an inverter shop.

Rahul along with other shopkeepers and rehriwalas closed down their shops following the terror alert amid deployment of security personnel in the area around 6 pm and rushed to their homes.

"We immediately closed down our shops and went home as we feared a terror attack," said Rahul, whose house falls close to the boundary wall of Air Force Station.

Security establishment was already on alert and apprehending an attack after an SP of Punjab Police was abducted by a group of men in army uniform on Thursday night.

"Intelligence inputs had been available of a likely attempt by terrorists to infiltrate into the military installation in Pathankot area. In response, preparatory actions had been taken by the Indian Air Force to thwart any such attempt," said an IAF statement in Delhi today.

In view of this anticipation, a team of NSG commandos was rushed here from Delhi by last night itself on directions of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. Two army columns were also positioned here to tackle the attack.

"We run a tea stall which remains open till late in the night because travellers on the highway stop here and take tea. I was also asked by security authorities to shut the shop and go home. We are thankful to the security alert, absence of which could have caused a major tragedy," said Swatanter Singh, who runs a make-shift tea stall close to the Air Force Station.

Security personnel had set up check points and started patrolling in the area since last night.

The area wore a deserted look following closure of the entire market in and around the air base besides closure of the highway portion on the front side of it.

"We woke up in the middle of the night to sudden barrage of fire and sounds of blasts. It created fear among us. Our family huddled in a room," Rahul added.

"Our state has gone through worst in the past, the two terrorist attacks in less than six months have scared the people as it has revived the memories of the bloody past that the people of Punjab have been trying to come out of," said Manjeet Singh, a local shopkeeper.

Earlier today, a group of Pakistani terrorists struck at the Air Force base here leading to a fierce gunbattle in which three security personnel, including a Garud commando of the IAF, were martyred while all the five attackers were killed.

In a similar attack on July 27, 2015, seven people, including a Punjab Police Superintendent, were killed when three terrorists carried out a strike on a police station in Gurdaspur district. All three militants were also killed.

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