Security personnel including an Israel-trained SWAT team spilled into the fields and byways of Punjab’s Pandher village on Thursday to flush out two suspected terrorists, with the authorities fearing an attack on a key military facility days after a terror siege at the nearby Pathankot airbase.
Police sources confirmed that government forces were prepared for an offensive a day after locals reported seeing two men in military fatigues acting suspiciously near the army cantonment in Gurdaspur district. When confronted, the men took cover in a sugarcane field, witnesses said.
When contacted, Punjab Police deputy inspector general (border range) Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh said: “We are not taking any chances. We are not ruling out anything. Aerial surveillance and troop movement is on.”
“A drone helped locate their location and by Thursday afternoon, the army and police teams took position,” a police source said.
Soldiers concealed themselves on rooftops, behind trees and at a brick kiln as armoured vehicles and mortar guns rolled into the village in the afternoon. A helicopter had conducted surveillance sorties earlier in the day.
By Thursday night, the sugarcane field spread over 30 acres was lit up by searchlights by the army and police personnel. Villagers said the drone had been hovering over the fields for thermal images
Pandher village is nearly 20km off the India-Pakistan border and about a stone’s throw from the Tibri military cantonment.
The facility is not far from the Pathankot air force station that saw a four-day long counter-terror operation in which six jihadists and seven security personnel were killed.
All roads leading to Tibri have been cordoned off and a high alert sounded in the area.
“We couldn’t get any sleep last night. Many villagers left to stay the night with their relatives though some returned this morning,” said a local resident who did not wish to be named.
Gurdaspur was also targeted by Pakistani terrorists in July last year when they stormed a police station.
By night, several houses at Bhule Chakk village located opposite Pandher across the road were also evacuated.