The role of a senior Punjab policeman is being investigated, as operations against terrorists who attacked an air force base in Pathankot continued well into a third day.
Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police, Salwinder Singh, was examined today by the National Investigation Agency or NIA along with his cook, a man called Madan Gopal. They say they were abducted last Thursday by terrorists who attacked the Pathankot base two days later. The attackers, Mr Singh has claimed, dumped them in a dense forest and hijacked his official SUV, equipped with a blue beacon, using it to enter Pathankot. The vehicle was found on Friday morning about 1.5 km from the air base.
Investigators are puzzled why the terrorists, who killed the driver of another car they hijacked, spared the policeman and those with him. Salwinder Singh, who was not in uniform, has said he convinced his abductors that he was an ordinary citizen and not a cop. Investigators say there are many inconsistencies in the policeman's statement. For one, he has reportedly changed his account a number of times on how many people abducted him.
As a senior cop, Mr Singh would also have been privy to a letter based on intelligence inputs sent on the same day by the Punjab Police alerting against a possible terror attack on key defence installations and asking top officials to be vigilant at night.
Salwinder Singh has said that he was on his way back to Gurdaspur from Pathankot where he had gone to pray at a local temple. But his movements close to the Indo-Pak border late on Thursday night along with a jeweller friend and his cook, but with no securitymen accompanying him, have been questioned, as security agencies investigate whether the terrorists were assisted in infiltrating into India in a "controlled operation" by a gang of drug smugglers.
Punjab is a notorious corridor for drug smuggling and several sleeper cells of the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad have been activated in Punjab through it, a home ministry source told Reuters. The terrorists who attacked the air base are suspected to be members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad. Sources said the involvement of some security personnel with smugglers cannot be ruled out. There is also speculation that the heavy arms and ammunition used by the terrorists in the attack were sent over from Pakistan much before the attackers crossed the border.