Seven military personnel were martyred and 20 others were injured in the attack by six terrorists at the Pathankot air base. (Press Trust of India photo)
The terror attack at the Air Force base in Punjab's Pathankot and the strike on the Indian Consulate in Afghanistan's Mazar-e-Sharif are linked, sources have said. "The attacks are linked and India has evidence," a senior security official told NDTV.
Sources say the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed was used by a section within Pakistan to carry out the strikes in both Pathankot and Mazar-e-Sharif. India has reportedly identified the chief of JeM as one of the handlers of the terrorists who launched the attack at the Pathankot base.
"The twin attack essentially tries to derail Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Afghanistan- Pakistan Policy," the official said and added "thorough investigation of the leads provided by India would surely lead Pakistan to them."
Talks between the National Security Advisers of India and Pakistan, ahead of the scheduled crucial meeting of Foreign Secretaries of the two countries this month, may take place if the leads given to Pakistan on the Pathankot attack are acted upon by Islamabad.
"At the very minimum, we expect terror handlers are arrested and those behind the attack are tracked down," a top security official told NDTV.
Meanwhile, investigations on the ground in Pathankot have led officials to conclude that at least two terrorist had entered the air base earlier - perhaps by late morning of January 1. And, the second group of four terrorist entered the air base later - early morning on January 2. The second group was tasked to create confusion and divert attention while the first group would try and attack the air assets, the oil and the ammunition dump. The first group of two terrorist carried 52 mm mortars and were also wearing explosive belts.
After four terrorist were killed on January 2, special forces - commandos of National Security Guards and commandos 1st Parachute Regiment - were given clear directions to use maximum fire power to prevent the other group of terrorists from moving locations, top sources told NDTV.
Investigations have also revealed that the second group of four terrorist entered the air base by scaling the wall adjoining the Motor Transport Wing. A rope used by the terrorist to scale the wall has been found by the investigators. The first contact between terrorist and the commandos happened at the Motor Transport Wing at about 3 am on January 2.
Investigators say they are almost certain that the second group of four terrorist used Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh's vehicle after abducting him to reach the base. But, it is not clear how the first group entered or how they carried their weapons into the base.
"This is what we are looking at very seriously," the official told NDTV.
Investigators are looking at the leads provided by Salwinder Singh, his friend Rajesh Aggarwal, and his cook Madan Gopal, who were with him when they were abducted.
"There are some discrepancies in their statements, and we are looking into these very carefully," the official said.