Pathankot Attack: Government Says High Casualties Despite Advance Intelligence Is 'Not A Lapse'

04/01/2016 8:43 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
AMRITSAR, INDIA - JANUARY 3: Members of National Human Rights and Crime Control Organization light candles and silent protest in front of portraits of Indian security personnel who lost their lives in the Pathankot militant attack at Air Force base, during a tribute paying ceremony at Company Bagh, on January 3, 2016 in Amritsar, India. The deadly assault on an Indian air base near the Pakistan border was 'a heinous' terrorist attack, the United States said, urging the two rivals to work together to hunt down those responsible. Three security officers were killed in the attack by suspected Islamist militants on Pathankot base in northern Punjab state early January 2. So far, six terrorists and seven soldiers, including a Lieutenant colonel, have been killed in the exchange of fire. Five members of the Defence Security Corps succumbed to injuries in the hospital. The attackers were believed to have infiltrated from Pakistan and there was speculation that they may belong to Jaish-e-Mohammad headed by Maulana Masood Azhar of the Kandahar hijack episode. (Photo by Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- The government today asserted the high casualties suffered by the security forces despite advance intelligence about an impending terror attack in Pathankot was "not a lapse" even as defence experts questioned the way the brazen assault was handled.

"I don't consider it a lapse at all. In such situations where weapons are there, some injuries and some deaths will happen on this side also," Home Secretary Rajiv Mehreshi told reporters here in the first official press conference, 36 hours after the attack on Indian Air Force base in Pathankot began.

While four terrorists were killed yesterday and operation was on to neutralise other two holed up at the base, seven soldiers including a commando each from the IAF and the NSG were killed while 20 others were left injured.

The high casualty among security forces despite prior intelligence warning and deployment of over 250 additional security personnel including special forces, has raised several questions.

Former Western Air Command Chief Air Marshall P S Ahulwalia, who had commanded the Pathankot Air base during his service, said coordination between various security agencies "could have been better" to minimise causalities among security forces.

"The success or otherwise of any operation could be judged by the following -- whether the terrorists were able to achieve their objective, minimal causality to our own forces, no collateral damage and attackers being neutralised in optimal time frame.

"The terrorist were not able to achieve their objective and they could not reach their target. However, we have lost more men and this could have been prevented by effective coordination. And also that the time taken to neutralise the attackers is way too long," he said.

Many also questioned why the government did not divulge full details of casualty figures last night itself.

Though unconfirmed reports had said there were six casualties among the security forces, the defence ministry had only confirmed 3 martyrs.

It was only this morning that they revised the figure to six claiming that only three had died last night. However, it later transpired that the six had died yesterday itself.

Asked why the details of those killed were not made available yesterday, an IAF spokesperson said," There are procedures to be followed and first the next of kin of the deceased are to be informed."

Former RAW Chief A S Dulat raised questions about failure of security agencies in thwarting the attack.

"Generally intelligence agencies get the flak but here is a case when you had a pinpointed intelligence and still you could not make it. Why?" he said.

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