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Unanswered questions behind the Pathankot terror attack

The SP for Gurdaspur disctrict, Singh was reportedly abducted last Thursday by terrorists who went on to attack the Pathankot Air Force base

Debarghya Sanyal  |  New Delhi 

Security forces personnel on alert near the Indian Air Force base that was attacked by militants in Pathankot, Punjab.
Security forces personnel on alert near the Indian Air Force base that was attacked by militants in Pathankot, Punjab.

Even as it becomes clearer that the attack at Pathankot air-base could have been handled better, there remain several questions that need answering, particularly those regarding the role of Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, who claimed to have been carjacked and later dumped by the terrorists.

The SP’s role

The Superintendent of Police for Gurdaspur disctrict, Singh was reportedly abducted last Thursday by terrorists who went on to attack the Pathankot Air Force base. According to media reports, Singh has claimed that his attackers dumped him and his cook in a dense forest and hijacked his SUV, equipped with a blue beacon, using it to enter Pathankot. The vehicle was found on Friday morning about 1.5 km from the air base. What is puzzling is that while the terrorists had killed the driver of another car they hijacked, they spared Singh, who apparently convinced them that he was an ordinary citizen and not a cop.

There are several inconsistencies in Singh’s statements, including him frequently changing his account on how many people abducted him, NDTV reported.

While Singh has maintained that he was on his way back to Gurdaspur from Pathankot where he had gone to pray at a local temple, his movements so close to the Indo-Pak border late on Thurday night, especially after the Punjab Police alerted its officials the same day against a possible terror attack on key defence installations and asked top officials to be vigilant at night.

How did the terrorists enter?

A Reuters report quoted a home ministry source saying that Punjab has long been used as a corridor for drug smuggling and several sleeper cells of the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad have been activated in Punjab through it. With the Pathankot attackers being linked to Jaish-e-Mohammad, this link cannot be ruled out. It has also been speculated that the arms and ammunition used by the terrorists were sent much before the attackers crossed the border.

The NSA’s role

Finally, the NSA’s handling of the entire operation has also been questioned by several political leaders and former defence personnel’s. While the Opposition has categorically asked Ajit Doval to confine himself to ‘advisory’ role, several other leaders, including Omar Abdullah, have criticised Doval for deploying NSG and Garud commandoes, instead of sending in the Army from the start.

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First Published: Tue, January 05 2016. 17:20 IST
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