Missed Clues And Lax Security For Pathankot Air Base Attack

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Missed Clues And Lax Security For Pathankot Air Base Attack

Terrorists attacked the Pathankot Air Force Station early on Saturday.

Chandigarh:  Major lapses have been acknowledged in preventing the deadly weekend attack on the air force base in Pathankot, and responsibility will be fixed after a thorough investigation, said top government sources to NDTV, as the operation to secure the base entered its fourth day.

The assault by a group of six terrorists, believed to be from Pakistan, began on Saturday at dawn. Five attackers have been eliminated by security officers; the body of the sixth has yet to be recovered.

Seven military personnel have been martyred and 20 injured in the assault on the sprawling compound that lies 25 km from the border with Pakistan.

The government believes that the infiltration by the six terrorists from across the border into India on the intervening night of December 31-January 1 was a major lapse. Despite an alert sounded on December 1 after a senior police officer's car was hijacked by the terrorists, dressed in army uniforms, the air force base at Pathankot was breached with relative ease.  

Police Superintendent Salwinder Singh's call to a colleague in the early hours of Friday morning, after his car was hijacked, was at first treated as a case of armed robbery, said sources to news agency Reuters. The officer told reporters that the men who abducted him were armed with AK-47s.

Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi has said the location of the attackers was only pinpointed as Pathankot on Friday afternoon that was at least 12 hours after the seizure of  Mr Singh's official vehicle.

However, civilian and military officials say a security alert was circulated quickly enough to prevent the terrorists from damaging fighter jets and attack helicopters at the base.

After hijacking Mr Singh's car, the terrorists reportedly dumped near the base. Once inside, they burst into a guards' mess and fired indiscriminately.

What has especially alarmed the government and intelligence agencies is that despite the alert that was sounded after the carjacking, the terrorists were able to enter the Pathankot base before security arrangements were dramatically increased by midnight on Friday.

A major weakness at the base, with a 24-km perimeter and a 10-foot wall topped by barbed wire, may have been a lack of adequate surveillance, said analysts.

Analysts and officials said the attackers may have worked in groups, with the carjackers acting together and two others believed to have entered the air base separately, possibly before the main attack.

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