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Fresh gunfire breaks out at Indian air force base

© AFP file photo | Indian army soldiers stand guard near to where an encounter took place in the Tanghdar sector north of Kashmir's Kupwara district on November 25, 2015

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-01-03

A fresh gunbattle erupted Sunday at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, where 11 people died in an attack by suspected Islamic militants, police said.

Officers said they believe up to two gunmen were hiding inside the air base in the northern state of Punjab near the border with Pakistan, which came under attack on Saturday.

"We suspect one or two terrorists are hiding inside. They are firing intermittently," Pathankot police chief Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh told AFP.

An AFP reporter near the site also confirmed gunfire from inside the base.

A police official, who requested not to be named, said that soldiers came under fire as they were clearing explosives from the site.

Loud explosions were also heard at the heavily guarded air base in the early hours of Sunday, but it was unclear if the blasts were controlled explosions or gunfire.

Gunmen, suspected to be from the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group, launched a pre-dawn attack Saturday on the key base.

Seven soldiers, including an army lieutenant-colonel, and four attackers were killed in the ensuing gunbattle that lasted 14 hours.

Attack follows Modi surprise visit

The attack came just a week after India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to arch rival Pakistan.

It was the first visit to Pakistan in 12 years by an Indian prime minister and marked a significant thaw in the mostly difficult relations between the nuclear-armed nations.

Police have said they're investigating whether the gunmen came from the Indian portion of Kashmir, where rebels routinely stage attacks, or from Pakistan.

The death of six Indian troops came despite the fact that there had been intelligence reports about a likely terror attack on military installations in Pathankot.

A Defence Ministry statement Saturday said that based on those intelligence reports the air force had been prepared to thwart any attackers.

Pathankot is on the highway that connects India's insurgency-wracked Jammu and Kashmir state with the rest of the country. It's also very close to India's border with Pakistan. The Himalayan region of Kashmir, where rebels have been fighting since 1989 for independence or merger with Pakistan, is divided between India and Pakistan, but is claimed in its entirety by both.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

Date created : 2016-01-02

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