Indian troops were still battling at least two gunmen Sunday evening at an air force base near the country's border with Pakistan, more than 36 hours after the compound came under attack, a top government official said. At least seven troops and four gunmen have been killed in the fighting so far.
The two suspected militants were discovered shortly after noon Sunday and hours later appeared to have been cornered, Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi told reporters, adding that he expected the gunmen to be "neutralized" soon.
The attack on the Pathankot air force base started before dawn Saturday and is seen as an attempt to undo recent improvements in the relationship between archrivals India and Pakistan.
Mehrishi said that an alert about a terror attack in Pathankot was sounded on Friday afternoon, and that aerial surveillance at the base spotted the suspected militants as they entered the compound. He said they were quickly engaged by Indian troops and "were unable to move toward their likely intended target of the technical area," where the base's aircraft and military equipment are kept.
Since Saturday morning, the base has been swarming with air force commandos, troops from India's elite National Security Guard and local police.
The number of troops killed in the attack rose to seven on Sunday, with four succumbing to their injuries overnight and an elite commando killed in a morning blast that occurred while he was handling explosives, officials said.
The attack at one of India's major air force bases started a few hours before dawn Saturday when a group of militants entered the area of the base where the living quarters are located, the Defense Ministry has said. The first gunbattle with the militants lasted about 14 hours, after which the air force said it had begun operations to secure the base.