New Delhi: Two terrorists of the suspected group of six might have entered Pathankot air base before a Punjab Police SP was kidnapped by them and much before an alert was sounded about their presence in the area.
There is "high probability" that at least two terrorists have entered the Indian Air Force base before Punjab Police SP Salwinder Singh, his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma and Singh's cook was kidnapped along with an SUV on December 31, official sources said.
Verma, whose throat was slit but survived, told his interrogators that he had heard the four terrorists, who boarded the vehicle after hijacking it, talking to their handlers.
The handler apparently ticked off the four terrorists saying why they could not enter the air base as two other terrorists have already reached the target.
The four terrorists told their handlers that they were on their way but could not reach the base as there were several police pickets on the way.
There is also possibility of these four terrorists entered the Pathankot air base in the morning of January 1, much before an alarm was sounded in the area to secure all vital installations later in the evening of that day, sources said.
The hijacked vehicle was also found near the air base.
Crucial hours were lost in verifying the Punjab Police SP's claims that he was kidnapped along with two others by the terrorists.
Sources said that police officers whom the SP had informed about the terrorists initially did not take him seriously due to his "dubious past", thus leading to some crucial hours being lost.
Sources said that immediately after the alarm was sounded, security at all vital installations, including the Pathankot air base in Punjab, was enhanced to the highest level to make it difficult for the terrorists to mount an attack.
Security agencies believe there were six terrorists and they were divided into two groups -- one of 4 and the other with 2 members.
The top security brass of the government knew by January one that Pathankot air base would be the target of the terrorists, who were still at large and steps were taken immediately.
First priority for the government was to secure the assets parked in the technical area and NSG team, about 160 commandos, was dispatched and they were deployed along with other special forces to guard the assets in the inner periphery.
NSG, which took command of the operation being the anti-terror force, also ensured the security of outer periphery.
The four in the first group were killed on Saturday while the two members of the second group were fighting till Monday.
The sources said that the final count of terrorists involved in the attack would be clear following the completion of the operation, the final stages of which saw the building from which fire was being directed being blown up.
There is possibility of one the two last terrorists blown into pieces due to explosion carried out by the forces.
Sources, meanwhile, added that the level of training of the Pathankot terrorists seems even better than that of the Mumbai 26/11 attackers.
It is clear from the tactics that these terrorists have employed that a professional army had trained them, they said.
The terrorists used all the tactics of professional fighters like conserving firepower, attacking at 3am when the level of alertness is at its lowest and going quiet to give the impression that all the attackers had died.
All these tactics are of military precision, the sources said.
With the driver of the Toyota Innova vehicle, Ikadar Singh, having been picked up by the terrorists from a spot near Gulpur-Samboli, 5km away from the International Border, it is being suspected that they crossed the border near that area.
The terrorists had later killed the driver.
The National Investigation Agency, which will probe the Pathankot attack, will also probe the killing of the driver and the kidnapping of the SP.
NIA is already questioning the SP and his cook, who was also in the vehicle. The SP had first given the information that there were four terrorists.