"They (terrorists) didn't know I was a police officer," said Punjab cop Salwinder Singh who was abducted
At the heart of decoding the many lapses that allowed a huge attack on the Pathankot
air force base is a senior police officer who was abducted by the terrorists that are believed to have come from Pakistan.
On the night of December 31, Police Superintendent Salwinder Singh was travelling with two other men following a visit to a shrine near the border with Pakistan. He was not in uniform, but was using his official car which was not, at the time, using the beacon that gives it the right of way in traffic.
"They were armed with AK-47s and spoke in Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu," said Mr Singh to NDTV, amid reports of inconsistencies in his account
shared with central investigators, by whom he was interrogated for six hours yesterday.
The Pathankot attack martyred seven military personnel and injured another 20 at the sprawling base where attack helicopters and fighter jets are kept. "There is nothing dodgy about what I have reported. Is my only fault that I am still alive? Hang me if I have done something wrong. I am a God-fearing man," the officer said to NDTV.
He said that after his car was hijacked, his arms and legs were tied up and his mouth and eyes were taped. "It was dark as well, so it was hard to count how many men they were," he said, explaining why he has provided inconsistent accounts of how many terrorists he encountered. Intel officers believe the six terrorists moved in two groups
"They didn't know I was a police officer," Mr Singh said as way of explanation for why the attackers did not kill him. "When they found out who I was, they came back to kill me and warned that if I tried to do anything to alert anyone, I would pay for it."
Mr Singh says the men took two of his three cellphones. When his gunman or security guard called his mobile, he claims the terrorists answered, saying "Salam Alaikum" (Urdu greeting). That call from his gunman alerted the terrorists to the fact that he is a cop, he said, adding that men at a check-post confirmed to the attackers that the car they were traveling in was a police vehicle.
He said he managed to break free eventually and trekked to a nearby village from where he used the third cellphone still with him to call his senior in the early hours of Friday morning. It turns out that the action that followed was grossly insufficient.
"The truth is that we did not take Singh's complaint seriously, because his record has not been clean," a second senior officer in the Punjab police told news agency Reuters, on condition of anonymity.
Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi has said despite the information from Mr Singh, 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 unmarked vehicle.
One local report said the assailants dumped Mr Singh's car 500 metres from the base. How they got into the compound is still unclear. Once inside, they burst into a guards' mess and fired indiscriminately.