The United Jehad Council (UJC), an umbrella group of various terrorist outfits operating from Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack on the IAF base in Pathankot.
The group is headed by Syed Salahuddin, who is also the chief of terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.
In a release to the media, Salahuddin said that the Saturday attack – ongoing as of Monday afternoon – “was carried out by the national highway squad of the UJC”.
A file photo of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.
Seven security personnel have been killed in the attack. Five terrorists have been neutralized and the security forces, including NSG, Air Force commandoes and Punjab police, are conducting combing operations.
An Indian army soldier in action outside the Indian Air Force base. REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta
The air force base, spread over an area of 25 square kilometers, is the home of IAF’s Number 3 Squadron which operates MiG-21 Bison fighter aircrafts and assault helicopters.
A spokesperson for the group, Syed Sadaqat Hussain, claimed that the attack was carried out by militants from Kashmir.
Security personnel install barrier on the way to the Indian Air Force base. REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta
“India is suffering from Pakistan phobia and has been blaming every attack by the freedom fighters of Kashmir on Pakistan,” a statement issued to the media said.
The group comprises Harkat-ul-Ansar, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Jamiat-ul- Mujahideen, Al-Jihad, Al-Barq, Al-Badr, Ikhwan-ul-Mussalmin, and Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen. It is based in Muzaffarabad in Pak-occupied-Kashmir.
“The attack on Pathankot Air Base from Kashmiri Mujhadeen carries a message to India that no security establishment and garrison are out of reach from militants,” said the spokesman.
An Indian army soldier manning the road to the air force base. REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta
The umbrella outfit also includes Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) but not Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
Until now, Indian authorities had been blaming JeM, led by Maulana Masood Azhar, for the Pathankot attacks. The government has, however, not made any comments against Pakistan.
Syed Salahuddin, the UJC chief, was born Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah and later adopted his current name after the Saracen emperor Salahuddin who fought in the Crusades.