With forensic investigators unable to conclusively identify human remains among the charred mass that was recovered at the site of the 2 January Pathankot attack, official sources told The Indian Express on the incident’s two-month anniversary on Wednesday that it’s not yet possible to ascertain whether there were four terrorists involved or six.
The National Security Guard (NSG), which had to be called in to quell the terror strike at the air force base during the attacks, initially believed there were six attackers involved. However, with no material evidence to back up this claim, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) now believes there might have been only four. The investigators say that not only were there no human remains left, like teeth and bones at the spot, there were also no traces of any weapons or grenades, which are likely to be used in a terror attack.
“For the sake of argument, I’m willing to concede the fire was intense enough to reduce corpses to dust,” a senior NIA officer was quoted by the paper as saying. “However, the fact is that assault rifles or pistols don’t melt in fires. Even exploding ammunition leave behind metal shrapnel.”
According to the NSG, firefighting began shortly after dawn on 2 January, 2016, resulting in the killing of four terrorists. However, even as New Delhi believed the attack had been successfully neutralised, information from the Jammu and Kashmir police indicated the presence of two more gunmen. NSG commandos searched nearby buildings and reached a door which was found to be locked from inside. And while they couldn’t detect the presence of anybody inside, a grenade was lobbed at them, injuring five commandos, one of them seriously.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has reacted strongly to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s claim that non-state actors may have acted with the support of the establishment. Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz, during a visit to Washington on Tuesday, said, “I think it is out of date. This is the old narrative which India has been following. The situation (in Pakistan) is now very different.”
He further added that Islamabad may make Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, the mastermind of the terror attack, available to Indian investigating agencies for questioning, but only after he has been investigated by the Pakistan authorities themselves. "First of all, we have to investigate ourselves and (find out) what it is... if he (Masood) does something (wrong), we would move against (him),” Aziz said.
Pakistan has also set up a five-member team which would be visiting Pathankot in the coming weeks to conduct its own independent probe. Following this, India-Pakistan foreign secretary-level talks would also take place, Aziz added. “A case has been registered and the special investigation team (SIT) is likely to visit India in the next few days. We, therefore, hope that the foreign secretary-level talks will be scheduled very soon,” he said.
“We believe that the resolution of all outstanding issues — including the Kashmir dispute — is possible through resumption of full-scale and uninterrupted dialogue with India,” he said, adding that Pakistan had also proposed a mechanism to address concerns on terrorism.
New Delhi too took note of the action taken by Pakistan. Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju informed Lok Sabha on Wednesday that Islamabad has, for the first time, registered a case to investigate the role of its citizens in the Pathankot attack.
With inputs from agencies