UPDATE: 5:55 a.m. EST — Six militants who attacked an Indian air force base Saturday have been killed, Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said Tuesday, adding that combing operations at the base were still underway.
Parrikar made the statement during a news briefing at the Pathankot air base near the border with Pakistan. He said that there were indications that the materials recovered from the terrorists were made in Pakistan.
“I thank security personnel for containing these highly-motivated terrorists,” Parrikar reportedly said.
The United States “expects” Pakistan to act against terrorists responsible for the deadly attack on an Indian air force base Saturday, State Department spokesman John Kirby reportedly said late Monday. Five gunmen and seven Indian soldiers have been killed during four days of siege at the Pathankot air base, in the northern state of Punjab, near the Pakistan border.
The United Jihad Council, a militant group based in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, on Monday claimed responsibility for the attack. The UJC is a conglomerate of around 13 militant outfits, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The group was formed in 1994 and is led by Mohammad Salahuddin, the leader of the pro-Pakistan Hezbul Mujahideen group, the largest in the alliance.
"The government of Pakistan has spoken very powerfully on this and it's our expectation that they'll treat this exactly the way they've said they would. We have been clear with the highest levels of the government of Pakistan that it must continue to target all militant groups," Kirby said, according to BBC.
The attack on the Pathankot base is widely seen as an attempt to derail recent peace efforts by Pakistan and India. The assault came just days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore to meet Pakistani leader Nawaz Sharif.
No gunfire was heard early Tuesday at the air base where troops continued the search for a possible sixth gunman involved in the attack. Air force spokeswoman Rochelle D'Silva said Tuesday "there has been no firing since Monday night at the base,” according to the Associated Press (AP).
Search operations inside the 2,000-acre Pathankot air force base will continue until all areas have been completely secured, Maj. Gen. Dushyant Singh of India's National Security Guard told the AP. Singh reportedly said Monday that all families living on the base were safe and "all strategic assets [helicopters, aircraft and other military hardware] were secured.”
On Monday, UJC spokesman Syed Sadaqat Hussain reportedly said that militants associated with so-called Highway Squad attacked the air base.
“Indian government and its media have been suffering from Pakistan phobia. By accusing Pakistan for every attack, India neither succeeded in past to malign the Kashmir freedom struggle nor will it get anything in future through malicious propaganda," the spokesman reportedly said. “The attack on Pathankot Air Base from Kashmiri Mujhadeen carries a message to India that no security establishment and garrison are out of reach from militants.”