Pathankot attack has striking similarities to Gurdaspur assault

Saturday’s terrorist attack on an Indian Air Force base in Punjab’s Pathankot, where two IAF personnel and four attackers were killed, has striking similarities to the July assault in Gurdaspur district.

The Pathankot attack comes six months after another terror strike where suspected Pakistani terrorists had sprayed bullets on a moving bus and stormed Dinanagar police station in Gurdaspur district bordering Pakistan, killing six people and injuring eight. The terrorists were shot dead after a 12-hour long gunbattle.

The terrorists on Saturday followed the same pattern of attack on the air base as they did in Dinanagar on July 27, 2015.

Defence sources said the terrorists belonged to the Jaish-e-Mohammad, a terror outfit which has a base in Pakistan, and had probably infiltrated into India about three days back. The terrorists were from Bahawalpur area of Pakistan’s Punjab province, they added.

Dressed in army fatigues, the four terrorists entered India from Pakistan through the porous riverine belt in Pathankot district. They were on a suicide mission and hijacked vehicles to make it to the Pathankot IAF base. Their target was a defence installation.

Last time in July, they were holed up in Dinanagar police station though they had planned to attack a defence target.

The militants were suspected to be part of a group that slipped across the border in Jammu and Kashmir. The three later made their way into Gurdaspur, which lies on the international border across Narowal district in Pakistan’s Punjab state.

The militants, dressed in army uniform, had first attacked a bus, firing at the passengers. They then commandeered a car, killing the driver, and drove to the police station. The two sentries on duty were killed by the militants and when the police returned fire, the militants took shelter in the station. In the operation to evict them, one superintendent of police was killed.

Separately, five bombs were found on a railway track in Punjab, suggesting a possibly coordinated attack.

Both the attacks came weeks after meetings between Indian and Pakistani prime ministers and an upswing in the relations between the two countries. The Pathankot attack came close on the heels of an upswing in India-Pakistan ties after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise trip to Lahore last month and held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

The attack in Gurdaspur came after Modi and Sharif met in the Russian city of Ufa and agreed to explore ways to pursue peace talks stalled for more than two years between the two countries.