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Pathankot attack: Only four militants had entered the airbase, clarifies govt

New Delhi: Putting to end speculation about the number of terrorists involved in Pathankot attack, the government on Tuesday made it clear that only four militants had entered the airforce station to carry out the strike that left eight people dead.

Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said “four Pakistan-based terrorists” had carried out the 2 January attack.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Four Pakistan-based terrorists entered Punjab via Janial road, Dhusi turn, near Ravi river bridge, Gulpur Simli village – Akalgarh and attacked airforce station in Pathankot,” he said in a written reply to a question by Congress MP Ravneet Singh, grandson of slain Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.

The Congress MP had asked about the number of terrorists who entered Punjab for Pathankot attack and the route used by them as well as the details of terrorists killed and arrested along with the weapons recovered from them.

Ahir said all these terrorists were neutralised by the security forces. The security forces recovered 4 AK rifles, 32 AK magazines, 3 pistols, 7 pistol magazines, one under barrel grenade launcher, 40 hand grenades and one dagger from them, he said.

The answer is contrary to a statement made by Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 4 March when he had said that charred remains, apart from four bodies of terrorists, were found at the debris after security forces searched the Pathankot airforce station when the operation ended.

“Charred remains were found and sent for forensic examination. We are awaiting for reports,” had said.

There was speculation that the Home Minister had made this statement on a presentation made by the elite NSG, which was not corroborated either by defence personnel or central security agencies.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar too had said that six terrorists were involved in the attack.

The National Investigation Agency, which was probing the case, has been maintaining that the investigators had found only four bodies.

The Home Ministry has recently given NIA the sanction to file a charge sheet against Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar and three others in the Pathankot terror attack.

The Home Ministry has in the past been left red faced over answers to Parliament questions including another Pakistan related controversy where it informed the House that they do not know about whereabouts of most wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, forcing the government to retract and clarify that Dawood is in Pakistan.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 16:28 IST

NDTV India ban: Channel moves SC against govt order

New Delhi: NDTV India on Monday moved the Supreme Court against the government’s order banning its telecast for a day on 9 November for its coverage of the Pathankot terror attack.

The petition challenges the Constitutional validity of the government order, the channel said in filing to the stock exchanges. In the filing, NDTV said the Ministry of Information and
Broadcasting had directed stopping of transmission or re-transmission of its Hindi news channel, NDTV India for a day from 00.01 hrs of 9 November, 2016 till 00.01 hrs of 10 November, 2016.

Supreme Court of India. AFPSupreme Court of India. AFP

Supreme Court of India. AFP

“We now update that NDTV Ltd and others have filed a writ petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court challenging the said order, inter-alia, challenging the constitutional validity of the said order and the provisions of law pursuant to which the said order has purportedly been passed,” the company said.

Sources said a senior advocate is likely to mention the matter on Tuesday, a day before the channel has been asked to keep away from broadcasting.

On its website, NDTV has mentioned that it has challenged the government’s one-day ban. NDTV has refuted the allegations and pointed out that other channels and newspapers reported the same information.

The ban has been widely condemned by journalists and editors with all press councils drawing parallels to the Emergency of the 1970s when basic constitutional rights including the freedom of the press were blatantly violated, the channel said on its website.

Pathankot terror attack gave India an ‘excuse’ to derail talks: Sartaj Aziz

Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday accused India of using the Pathankot terror attack as an “excuse” to derail the bilateral dialogue process and said that talks are the best way forward to resolve outstanding issues, including “mutual concerns” related to terrorism.

Sartaj Aziz. ReutersSartaj Aziz. Reuters

Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz. Reuters

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that peaceful neighbourhood was part of the government’s policy.

He said Pakistan and India had agreed to start the dialogue in December 2015 when Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Pakistan.

“But before the Foreign Secretaries could meet and finalise a schedule for resuming the Comprehensive Dialogue, the Pathankot incident of 2 January 2016 gave India an excuse to postpone the resumption of the dialogue,” he said.

“Pakistan believes that dialogue is the best way forward to resolve outstanding issues, including mutual concerns related to terrorism,” he said.

He said Pakistan sent a Joint Investigation Team to India and has already initiated the required investigation against those alleged to be involved.

The India-Pakistan talks were was stalled after the 2 January attack on Pathankot airbase in which seven Indian security personnel were killed.

India has accused Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed for the attack and has linked the resumption of the dialogue process to the action taken by Pakistan against the group.

Aziz addressed the media here to highlight achievements of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government.

To a question, Aziz said that Pakistan would continue to support Kashmiris’ struggle for the right of self- determination at bilateral level in talks with India as well as at multilateral forums like the UN.

Aziz reiterated that US drone attack on 21 May which killed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mansour damaged the efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

“The recent drone attack in Balochistan in which the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed, has breached our sovereignty, caused a serious setback to the peace efforts and intensified hostilities in Afghanistan. The drone strike must, therefore, be condemned by all stakeholders,” he said.

He said Pakistan’s relations with the US have improved since Sharif took over but the main issue affecting the ties is American indifference towards security needs of Pakistan.

“In our interactions, we firmly conveyed to the US that maintaining effective nuclear deterrence is critical for Pakistan’s security and only Pakistan itself can determine how it should respond to the growing strategic and conventional imbalances in South Asia,” he said.

Pakistan JIT says Pathankot attack was ‘a drama staged to malign Islamabad’: Pak media report

Just a few days after the Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Pathankot terror attack admitted that the four terrorists who attacked the Pathankot Indian Air Force base were from Pakistan, the JIT has said that the Pathankot attack had been staged by India, according to a Pakistani media report.

The JIT “says the attack was a drama staged to malign Pakistan,” according to a report in Pakistan Today. It further said that the JIT report, which will be submitted to Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the next few days, has even concluded that Indian authorities had prior information about the terrorists.

File image of the Pakistan Joint Investigation Team. IBNLive

File image of the Pakistan Joint Investigation Team. IBNLive

The report also quoted a member of the JIT as saying that the NIA officer’s murder on Saturday night in Uttar Pradesh showed that “Indian establishment wants to keep the matter under wraps.”

The same source also told Pakistan Today that the JIT concluded that the standoff between the Indian army and “alleged” terrorists ended within hours after the attack, which apparently made it clear that the attack was a drama staged to malign Pakistan.

“The Indian authorities made it a three-day drama to get maximum attention from the world community in order to malign Pakistan,” Pakistan Today quoted the JIT report as saying.

The source also told Pakistan Today that no “major” damage was done to the base and that the perimeter lights at the airbase were not functional on the day of the attack, which apparently raises questions about whether India had prior information about the terrorists.

This is not the first time, though, that the Pakistani media and the JIT have made allegations of hiding evidence against India.

On 28 March, a report by Pakistani news channel Dunya News had said that Indian authorities showed “signs of reluctance” when the JIT asked them for information and evidence.

“Sketches of the attackers, footage of the closed-circuit television, duty registers of the Border Security Force (BSF), details of the bank accounts, service records, post-mortem report of the driver who died in the car accident at the time of the incident and the FIR of that car’s snatching have not been given to the Pakistani investigation team,” a report in Pakistani newspaper Daily Times had said.

The report had further said that post-mortem and DNA reports of the terrorists involved and phone records and information about the commander of Pathankot airbase had not been given to the JIT.

The Dunya News report had further claimed that the stances of the Indian government and BSF regarding the terror attack were contradicting each other.

Moreover, the report had said that while Indian authorities had said that terrorists had entered the Pathankot airbase after climbing ten-feet walls, no ropes were found as evidence.

These claims by the Pakistani media had come just a day after it was found that Pakistan’s electronic media regulatory body (PEMRA) on Sunday had released a statement for the Pakistani media, asking them to be “professional” and “responsible” when reporting on the Lahore attacks, unlike the Indian media.

What is truly surprising about the Pakistani JIT report’s claim is that it comes just days after the same JIT admitted that the terrorists were from Pakistan. Reports had, in fact, also suggested that Pakistan had enough evidence to link them to extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Moreover, during the beginning of the investigation, Indian investigators had said that the visiting officials did not “contradict” any of the evidence submitted by the NIA.

“The fact that they did not contradict or made any adverse comment or observation is a positive sign,” sources had told IANS.

The fact that the JIT is now saying that Indian authorities did not provide evidence and is claiming something as absurd as India staging the Pathankot attack shows exactly how dark relations between India and Pakistan truly are.

As this report in The Tribune had said, “Cricketers believe that if India and Pakistan were to play more games, it would help both countries to live in peace. They do not realise that at political and diplomatic levels too, both nations play games. This game is called one-upmanship, with surprise as an important element.”

With inputs from agencies

NIA releases photos of Pathankot terrorists ahead of Pakistan team’s arrival in India to probe attack

New Delhi: Ahead of the visit by a Pakistani probe team in connection with the Pathankot terror attack on an IAF base, NIA on Monday released the photographs of four terrorists killed during the counter-offensive which began on 2 January and lasted for more than 80 hours.

The move comes barely a few days before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Pakistan visits here to ascertain the facts of the case and investigation carried out by the National Investigation Agency.

The NIA’s handout featured the bodies of the four slain terrorists with description of their height. The anti-terror probe agency has said one of the terrorists did not have a toe in both the feet.

The picture has been circulated and public asked to share information about them.

A scene from the terror attack in Pathankot. PTI

A scene from the terror attack in Pathankot. PTI

The agency has already approached the Interpol for issaunce of Black Notice for the four. The international notice is issued for identification of unidentified bodies found in a country.

About the remaining two, the NIA was planning to approach another forensic laboratory for conducting a fresh test of the samples recovered from the Airmen billet at the Pathankot air base. Forensic laboratory in Chandigarh had said they had found human remains in the samples handed over by the NIA.

It will take some time before the identity of the remaining two was acertained, an official source said, hinting the same may not be completed before the Pakistani SIT’s departure from India.

The SIT will be arriving here on 27 March and would be holding consultations with the NIA about the probe conducted so far, the sources said.

India has already sent a Letters Rogatory to Pakistan seeking certain details about the four.

India has been seeking details of the phone numbers dialled by the four terrorists ahead of the attack on the airbase on the intervening night of January 1 and 2.

The numbers are believed to be in the names of people connected with Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group including Mullah Dadullah and Kashif Jaan. The numbers shared belong to the Pakistani telecom operators like Mobilink, Warid and Telenor.

The NIA has also sought details and picture of sons of Khayam Baber, whose son had was part of the suicide squad that carried out the attack.

Kashif Jaan, one of the key handlers of the attackers, had accompanied the terrorists till the border, the sources said.

The bodies of four terrorists have been preserved. Out of the four, two of them have been identified as Nasir and Salim. Nasir was the one who had called his mother, Baber, in Bhawalpur using the phone snatched from the jeweller friend of a Superintendent of Police of Punjab Salwinder Singh.

The NIA has also given details, including the batch number of food packets used by the terrorists after infiltrating into India on 30 December. The terrorists had carefully buried the packets which had Pakistani markings and manufacturing dates of November and December 2015, sources said.

PTI

Pakistan arrests several suspects in raids conducted in connection with Pathankot attack

Lahore: Pakistani authorities have conducted raids in some cities of Punjab province and arrested several suspects in connection with the attack on an Indian air base in Pathankot last month, a media report said.

“The raids were conducted in Sialkot, Gujranwala, Jhelum and Dina cities in Punjab province during the last two days, and some suspects were arrested,” an unnamed Interior Ministry official was quoted as saying by the BBC Urdu.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

They have been shifted to an undisclosed location for interrogation, the official added.

Pakistan has also started investigations regarding the telephone numbers provided by India and used in planning the attacks on the Pathankot airbase. The authorities are looking for those involved directly in the attacks or the facilitators of the attackers, the BBC said.

Special teams comprising police and other law-enforcers are conducting raids across the country, especially in central Punjab cities.

“It is suspected that the arrested people have been in contact with the alleged extremists in the near past,” the official said, adding that these people went underground when news stories were run by the media after the attacks.

He said these suspects had stopped the use of their mobile numbers (SIMs) and because of this locating them had become very difficult. He, however, said those points are being searched for the suspects where they had last used the said mobile numbers.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the mobile numbers provided by India in the Pathankot case were also included in the case registered by the Pakistani authorities.

He said during the investigation, several people have been detained for questioning. He, however, did not provide the details of those arrested.

Pakistani authorities had lodged an FIR in connection with the Pathankot attack on 18 February.

The FIR was filed against “unknown persons” after weeks of probe into the terror assault that had led to the postponement of Foreign Secretary-level talks.

Seven security personnel were killed when suspected terrorists of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) stormed the Pathankot airbase on 2 January.

India has blamed JeM for the attack and identified Masood Azhar as the mastermind of the attack. It has also blamed his brother Rauf and five others for carrying out the attack.

Meanwhile, the Dawn said the registration of the FIR appears to have paved the way for a series of next steps.

“The first of those steps is likely to be a trip by Pakistani investigators to India to gather evidence on the basis of which collaborators and architects of the Pathankot air base attack may be formally charged,” the paper said.

“The Pathankot attack is an early and serious test of the intentions of both the Pakistani and Indian establishments.”

The paper said there has been no attempt in Pakistan to downplay the Jaish-e-Mohammed role in the Pathankot attack.

Insisting on resumption of dialogue, it said, “For reasons of both security and prosperity, the governments of India and Pakistan owe it to their publics to restart and sustain a bilateral dialogue.”

PTI

JeM chief Masood Azhar is in protective custody in Pakistan: Sartaj Aziz

New Delhi: Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, named by India as the mastermind of the Pathankot attack, has been under “protective custody” since 14 January, Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz has said.

He also said it was for India to decide on dates for Foreign Secretary-level talks, postponed in the wake of the terror strike.

Sartaj Aziz. Reuters

Sartaj Aziz. Reuters

Aziz said a Special Investigation Team from Pakistan may visit Pathankot in the first few days of March to probe the attack and that his country was pursuing the investigation seriously.

He said one of the mobile phone numbers linked to the attackers was traced to the terror group’s headquarters in Pakistan’s Bahawalpur and called the lodging of the FIR in connection with the Pathankot assault as a “logical and positive step” in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Aziz told Karan Thapar of Headlines Today that Azhar, along with a few other operatives of the JeM, has been kept under protective custody and that some of the terror outfit’s premises have also been sealed. He said action will follow against Azhar and others the moment evidence becomes available.

This is for the first time a top functionary of the Pakistan government has confirmed that Azhar is in custody in that country though there were earlier reports to that effect.

Aziz said the FIR filed four days back in the Pathankot attack case has created legal basis for a Special Investigation Team of Pakistan to visit India to collect evidence. He said India has agreed to the SIT visit.

Asked about Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar‘s comment that SIT will not be allowed to go inside the IAF base in Pathankot, Aziz said access to crime scene always helps the investigators.

On holding of the Foreign Secretary-level talks between the two countries, Aziz said the “ball is in India’s court”.

“The answer to it lies entirely with India,” he said, adding he hoped prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif will meet on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington next month.

Pakistani authorities had lodged an FIR in connection with the Pathankot attack on 18 February, without naming Azhar.

The FIR was filed against “unknown persons” after weeks of probe into the terror assault that had led to the postponement of Foreign Secretary-level talks. It was registered at Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) centre in Gujranwala, Punjab province.

Asked about Pakistani-American LeT operative David Headley’s revelations about the Mumbai attack during his deposition through video conference to an Indian court, Aziz said he was “a double agent who cannot be trustworthy”.

He rejected suggestions of taking Headley’s version on record in the ongoing trial in the Mumbai attack case in Pakistan.

Aziz said talks between the two countries and the probe into the attack may go on parallelly, noting both Modi and Sharif share “very good chemistry”.

Modi’s attempts to improve ties with India have been visible, he said but insisted that more was required to be done to wipe out his earlier image of having a “strong” position on Pakistan.

The two Prime Ministers should not allow derailment of the talks by non-state actors, he said, adding Modi’s visit to Lahore on 25 December last year was “very well received”.

Favouring resumption of comprehensive bilateral talks as soon as possible, he said India has been held hostage to the “narrative of terrorism” which was unfortunate. He noted that the importance of dialogue is growing by the day.

On Pakistan’s SIT’s visit to India, Aziz said the team will go “as soon as possible”, maybe during the first few days of March.

He said Pakistan was examining all the evidences including the phone numbers given by India in Pathankot attack case and that the NSAs of the two countries are in regular touch.

Aziz said the investigators are also trying to establish links of the perpetrators and weapons used in the attack.

On Siachen, Aziz said Pakistan was for withdrawal of forces by the two sides and has put forth its proposal before India again and claimed both sides were close to an agreement for many years.

PTI

India will surely teach a lesson to the masterming of the Pathankot terror attack: Parrikar

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said India will “surely” teach a lesson to the mastermind of the Pathankot air base attack and admitted that the terrorists were probably inside the air base even before intelligence about an impending strike was received.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. IBNLive

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. IBNLive

Noting that India “is losing much of its patience”, Parrikar said the country will give tit-for-tat. “Eent ka jawaab patthar se denge (we will reply to bricks with stones),” he said.

Parrikar said the “pushers” of the attacks were in Pakistan, refusing to disclose further details.

“You have to plan. Here I have named individual and organisation, and has not named any country, because if it’s against a country, then it means war. We want to teach a lesson to the individual. Where and when, that will be our choice,” Parrikar said in Rajat Sharma’s show ‘Aap Ki Adalat‘ on India TV.

Asked why India has not launched a counter-attack against terror camps in Pakistan after the Pathankot incident, Parrikar was quoted in a press release by India TV as saying that the time will be chosen by India.

“How do you know where we should strike and where we should not? Such things are not disclosed in public. We must have the capability. And Pakistan… I will not name any country… They take sort of fights with us by sending terrorists. Such people need to be taught a lesson. There is no question mark in it. But when, how and at what time, should be decided based on our convenience,” he said.

Parrikar said there has been fresh information that some of the Pathankot attackers were inside the air base even before the intelligence was received.

“Some people have inferred wrongly about the gaps that I had mentioned. The air base has a 25-kilometre periphery, and they should not have entered, but we got advance information only 10-12 hours earlier. Now more information has come saying probably they (attackers) were in before the intelligence was received by us. Anyway that will be investigated by agencies. That is the gap which I was saying,” he said.

Told that the terrorists got trained at a Pakistani air base, Parrikar said he can’t reveal the details because “as we say, no one tells the world what you do and what happens inside a bedroom. So in such operations, nothing is revealed to the world, but we will do it surely”.

Asked why India was not carrying out cross-border strike against terror camps as it did against the NSCN(K) rebels “inside Myanmar”, Parrikar said he would not disclose much in such matters, otherwise “the surprise element will be gone”.

“Once it happens, you will come to know about it. In the North-East, those who attacked our 6 Dogra (regiment)…we didn’t tell them what we were going to do,” he was quoted as saying.

PTI