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Sunday, 3 January 2016

From Today's Papers - 03 Jan 2016

Pathankot air base attacked; 8 dead
Five Pak terrorists gunned down | Two Defence Security Corps men, IAF commando killed, says Punjab DGP
Ravi Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Pathankot, January 2
Dressed in army fatigues, a group of five terrorists, suspected to belong to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), entered the Pathankot Air Force base in the wee hours today and engaged security forces in a fierce gunbattle lasting several hours, before four of them were killed in the morning. The fifth terrorist could be neutralised at only around 7 pm, almost 15 hours after they struck.

Punjab DGP Suresh Arora said two Defence Security Corps (DSC) men and an Air Force commando also died in the attack. DSC personnel are retired Armymen who are reemployed to undertake guard duties at static establishments. Earlier reports had put the number of DSC casualties at five. Arora said the terrorists belonged to JeM.

The attack took place hours after the Pathankot police and the Army launched a massive combing operation in the area falling between Chakki river and the rear gate of the air base.

Yesterday, a Gurdaspur-based SP-rank officer had claimed that five terrorists had kidnapped him at 3 am on January 1, before freeing him and his two acquaintances just outside the rear gate of the Air Force station an hour later.

All security agencies had been put on high alert and the elite National Security Guards too had been rushed to Pathankot last night. The security agencies had been working on the theory that the five "Urdu-speaking fidayeen" could be targeting the strategic defence installations in this border city.

Search operations were launched for these five suspects by 5 pm yesterday and by 8 pm, the entire city had virtually shut down.

The terrorists are believed to have entered the air base from the rear gate and their target was said to be the hangars where combat aircraft, including a MiG-21 squadron and an MI-35 attack helicopter unit, are located. As the ultras snooped their way into the station around 3 am, the Air Force claimed they were detected by aerial surveillance platforms.

By 5 am, nearly 300 Armymen were deployed along with Armoured Personal Carriers (APC). The IAF also used choppers for surveillance and engaged the terrorists with aerial firing. An IAF statement said they were contained immediately, preventing them from reaching the technical area.

This is the second major attack in a city bordering  Pakistan. In July, three Lashkar-e-Toiba ultras had executed a terror strike in Dinanagar, killing seven people, including an SP-rank officer. Dinanagar is 20 km away from Pathankot. 

Senior police officers said the target was to destroy military installations in and around Pathankot. “That is why they did not take the SP  hostage as it would have created a furore. They had bigger plans,” an officer said.
10 terrorists may have infiltrated
Local leader’s role suspected
Jupinderjit Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
Security forces and Intelligence agencies are strongly suspecting involvement of a local political leader for helping the group of terrorists who attacked the Pathankot Air Force station.

It is suspected that about 10 terrorists had managed to infiltrate on the intervening night of December 31-January 1 from across the border, but the exact entry point is yet to be ascertained.

The security establishment is suspecting the joint involvement of Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad and Babbar Khalsa in the attack, with the active support of local handlers.

Though five terrorists have been killed so far, sources said they had sound information that about 10 terrorists had managed to sneak into India. This is corroborated by reports that some handlers arranged a taxi for them.

They said RAW and IB were questioning Punjab Police SP Salwinder Singh, who was “unusually” let off by the terrorists. “Agencies are zeroing on the local handlers,” said an official.

He said the hand of Jaish- e-Mohammad was suspected as they had an expertise in targeting defence bases.

Where were five who attacked for 24 hours?

If the route taken and exact motive of the three terrorists involved in the July 27 attack at Dinanagar are still unclear, Saturday’s attack raises another key question: where were the terrorists between 3 am on January 1 when a Punjab SP claims to have seen them and 3:30 am on January 2 when they attacked the Air Force station? And why and how did they go untraced?

Although the defence spokespersons claimed having intelligence alert about the attack and 140 NSG commandos were in Pathankot by January 1 morning, besides Punjab Police officials led by ADGP (Law and Order) HS Dhillon, yet the terrorists remained untraced and managed to attack the Air Force station.

Sources said initially the police and other forces were sceptical of the claims of SP Salwinder Singh that he and two others were kidnapped by terrorists. ADGP Dhillon was deputed to question him and prepare for any eventuality.

Sources said the terrorists had carefully chosen the Air Force station as it is considered a soft target compared to attacking a military installation. The station, it is learnt, has several vulnerable points in its fenced and walled area.
Why is Pathankot on target again?
Through the district pass the strategically important lone rail and road links to Jammu & Kashmir
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 2
A narrow plain (just 30-km wide) lies between the Himalayas and the international border with Pakistan.

Located at the eastern edge of this plain and nestled in the foothills at an altitude of 1,090 feet is the militarily vital town of Pathankot. It is the northern-most district of Punjab that is located at the confluence of the boundaries of J&K and Himachal Pradesh.

The narrow 30-km plain is clearly India’s ‘jugular vein’ — the weakest point. India’s military prowess at Pathankot and around is tasked to ensure dominance in the topography marked by fast-flowing seasonal rivulets and jungles.

Through these 30 km pass the lone rail and road connection to J&K. The national highway connecting Jammu is the lone link across the Ravi, allowing military and civilian movement and so is the lone rail link that carries passengers to Udhampur and Katra.

The air base at Pathankot had been attacked by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) during the 1965 and 1971 wars. Today’s attempt by terrorists to storm the base can be counted as the third attempt to target it even though it does not match the scale of the PAF attack.

“Today’s attack had the potential to cause damage to planes and helicopters at the base. Good that it was contained,” says Commodore Uday Bhaskar (retd). Besides a MiG 21 fighter jet squadron, Pathankot is home to a squadron of attack copters that fly in tandem with ground-trawling tank regiments.

The base also has UAVs, air defence guns and long-distance surveillance radars. A town having 1.56 lakh population, Pathankot houses Mamun cantonment, which is used as a launching ground.

The Army has a division —some 15,000 men — complete with artillery guns and tanks. It is also the base for a new division which is part of the upcoming 17 Mountain Strike. Pathankot remains top priority for the IAF which has otherwise formed a formidable ‘ring fence’ of air fields like Adampur (Jalandhar), Halwara (Ludhiana), Bathinda, Sirsa and Ambala in Haryana and Suratgarh in Rajasthan.

Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail (retd) of the PAF — known as an aviation historian — writes in his blog ‘aeronaut’ about the Pakistan design to damage the Pathankot runaway. “In 1971, Pathankot was singled out for two successive raids,” he says.

SN Prasad in his book ‘The India Pakistan War of 1965’, an authorised account from the Ministry of Defence archives says the PAF, on the intervening night of September 6 and 7, 1965, launched an unusual attempt to destroy IAF aircraft and airfield installations. Paratroopers of the Special Services Group were air-dropped at night near Pathankot, Halwara and Adampur. Of the 180 Pakistani commandos, 136 were taken prisoner, 22 killed and the rest managed to escape.

Pak phone number used to hire taxi

Pathankot: The terrorists were in regular touch with their Pakistani handlers, who even arranged a taxi for them by calling from a mobile number of that country. Sources said the terrorists had first used a Toyota Innova on Friday and it has been found that the driver was called from a Pakistan number. Security agencies are questioning the driver and trying to find out whether he had any links with terrorists or was it a case of him not recognising a Pak number.

Sacked IAF technician to be quizzed

New Delhi: A sacked IAF official, arrested for allegedly sharing secret information with ISI, will be interrogated, investigators told a city court which extended his police custody till Monday. Ranjith KK, a Leading Aircraftman with IAF posted at Bathinda, was dismissed recently and later arrested. He had allegedly shared secret information with intelligence operatives suspected to be backed by ISI after being "honeytrapped" into an espionage racket.

Gujarat on high alert
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Police have issued an alert and the security personnel have been told to take necessary steps to keep a check on suspicious activities in the wake of the terror attack in Punjab. “In the wake of today’s terror attack in Punjab, I have asked the police department and respective heads to remain alert. Based on some inputs available with us, I have ordered the police force to take all necessary steps and increase vigil across the state,” said PC Thakur, DGP.
Vigil up, but porous border still vulnerable
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
Five months after the Border Security Force (BSF) claimed to have stepped up vigil along the international border (IB) after a terror strike near Gurdaspur in July last, terrorists once again targeted the area in the wee hours, pointing to the vulnerability of the border.

Initial reports said the terrorists belonged to Bahawalpur in Pakistan, which lies across Suratgarh-Hanumangarh in Rajasthan. Their target was the Air Force Station at Pathankot, about 20 km from the site of the previous attack. There is also an Army Division headquarters, an ammunition depot and a transit camp in the area.

An alert was sounded by the Army after the Gurdaspur episode, which has several parallels with  today’s incident.The international border along the Ravi is difficult to fence and guard owing to the terrain. Hence, invariably some gaps remain.The stretch in Punjab further down south along the Sutlej remains equally vulnerable.

The BSF had recently announced a “second line of defence” in the Jammu and Punjab sectors, including surprise deployment of forces, hi-tech surveillance and communication equipment and modern weapons and drawing personnel from the state police for a back-up.

Despite the additional measures, the international border, particularly in Punjab and Jammu, remains vulnerable to smugglers and infiltrators. A few days ago, BSF Director-General DK Pathak had said that 62 infiltration bids were foiled on the international border in 2015 as compared to 48 in 2014. Two incidents of cross-border infiltration in Punjab within five months have given a new dimension to the security situation. Drug smuggling in Punjab continues to be a serious matter. In 2014 and 2015, the BSF had seized 361 kg and 345 kg of heroin in Punjab, respectively.

The BSF is responsible for peace-time management of the 2,308-km-long border with Pakistan that runs through four states- Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. The BSF is also deployed along the 742-km-long Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir though the responsibility of guarding the LoC lies with the Army.

The length of the international border in Punjab is 553 km, with some stretches running through riverine areas along the banks of the Sutlej and Ravi that cannot be fenced and, hence, remain susceptible to infiltration. Only a 461-km stretch of this border is fenced with 178 border outposts (BoP) set up to man the border. One more is in the pipeline.
China revamps military as Prez Xi eyes ‘strong force’
Beijing, January 2
China has elevated the status of the strategic nuclear missile forces of its army, navy and air force and formed a new force to provide electronic and cyber intelligence backup for precision missile strikes in war.

In the newly revamped structure of its 2.3 million-strong military, China’s powerful missile force - the Second Artillery Corps (SAC) - which was formed in 1966 has been renamed as People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force (PRF) while a new PLA Strategic Support Force (SSF) has been formed.

With a variety of short, medium and long-range nuclear and conventional missiles, China’s missile force is regarded as one of the biggest in the world.

On Thursday, China confirmed reports of the PLA conducting scientific tests of a railcar-based long-range missile capable of hitting targets across the US.

Inaugurating the PRF and SSF, President Xi Jinping today conferred military flags on the general command of the two new units at a ceremony.

CCTV said besides renaming the missile force, Xi, who is also the head of the military, elevated the status of the new force with the army, navy and air force. The two new forces will not be “subordinating forces”.

While the PRF with number of missiles will carry on as a strategic deterrence force, the job of the SSF will be to provide proper electronic intelligence to it in war times. The new forces which are part of the cyber warfare will play in a vital role China’s plans to win “information wars”, it said.

Inaugurating the forces, Xi said the formation of the Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force was a major decision by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) to realise the Chinese dream of a strong military and a strategic step to establish a modern military system with Chinese characteristics.

It will be a key milestone in the modernisation of the Chinese military and will be recorded in the history of the people’s armed forces, said Xi who is also the general secretary of the CPC.

He said the PLA Rocket Force is a “core force of strategic deterrence, a strategic buttress to the country’s position as a major power, and an important building block in upholding national security”. — PTI
Chinese Soldiers Dance To 'Jai Ho' At New Year Meet With Indian Army
Guwahati:  It was a unique New Year's gift. Troopers of the Peoples Liberation Army of China and local Chinese villagers danced to the Bollywood number 'Jai Ho' during the Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) with the Indian Army on January 1 at the India-China border in the Chengdu Province of China, bordering Eastern Arunachal Pradesh.

"This time the meeting was marked by a novelty. After paying respects to the national flags and playing of the national anthems, the Chinese soldiers surprised and enthralled the audience with their performance of Hindi Bollywood songs. The Chinese women soldiers performed a scintillating dance on the rendition of the group songs by Chinese men," said Guwahati-based Defence spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Suneet Newton.

The Chinese troopers danced to the film numbers 'Jai Ho' and 'Ankhe Khuli Ho Ya Ho Bandh.' They had been preparing for the performance for a month, Army sources added.

The ceremonial Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) with China is a regular New Year's affair. This time, the meeting was held at Damai of Zayu Garrison in the Chengdu Province. The Chinese delegation was led by Senior Colonel Hu Xiao Bao and the Indian Army delegation was led by Brigadier SS Bhogal.
Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030-km unfenced border with China. The McMahon Line, an imaginary border now known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), separates the India-China border along Arunachal Pradesh, a state that China claims. The region has seen several alleged Chinese incursions in past.

Yet another BPM was held on January 1 on the Indian Side at Bumla in the remote Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh where the troppers from India and China jointly ushered New Year in extremely chilly weather conditions.

The Indian Army troopers put up a Pipe and Jazz band performance for their Chinese counterparts. The bonhomie comes as time when India plans to double the number of troops guarding the India-China frontier in Arunachal Pradesh. 

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