On 5 January, a day after Indian security forces had killed six militants who attacked the Pathankot Air Force Station, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar held a press conference at the base. In the course of it, Parrikar blamed “bad luck” for some of the deaths of Indian personnel during the attack.
It was a surprising statement, since, in many ways, the security forces had been fortunate in this instance. Before they entered the base, the militants abducted and then released the Punjab Police officer Salwinder Singh and his companions, leading to a security alert. Reacting to intelligence, the government deployed India’s premier counter-terrorist force, the National Security Guard, or the NSG, to the airbase on the night of 1 January.
After four attackers were killed in initial fighting, claims that the operation had been concluded spread through television and social media. But, subsequently, two more attackers were discovered, leading to further fighting, in which they were killed. Among the seven security personnel who died in the attacks was Lieutenant Colonel Niranjan Kumar, of the NSG’s bomb disposal squad, who was killed when a grenade on a slain attacker’s body exploded. It emerged later that the NSG didn’t kill a single attacker in the entire operation—all six were eliminated by personnel from other forces who were present.
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