India army launches search for 'suspicious' men near attacked air base

An Indian mourner reacts during a vigil on Wednesday for Indian soldiers killed in an attack on an air force base in Mumbai.
An Indian mourner reacts during a vigil on Wednesday for Indian soldiers killed in an attack on an air force base in Mumbai.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The Indian army and police launched a search operation Wednesday near Pathankot where a weekend attack on an air force base left seven soldiers dead, after villagers complained about two suspicious men in the area.

The search was focused in Gurdaspur district in the northern state of Punjab, close to Pakistan border and about 51 kilometres from Pathankot.

"The local villagers informed us about two suspicious men in army fatigues close to the army cantonment area," Gurpreet Singh Toor, senior superintendent of Gurdaspur police said.

"We have since launched a search operation along with the army in that area. We haven't yet come up with anything yet but the search is still on," he added.

Indian security agencies have been on a high alert since the attack over the weekend on the air base by six gunmen with suspected linked to the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed.

All the attackers were killed in the two days of gunbattles.

The attack - a rare targeting of an Indian military installation outside disputed Kashmir - threatens to undermine improving relations with Pakistan.

It came just about a week after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a surprise visit to Pakistan, the first by an Indian premier in 11 years.

Modi on Tuesday urged his Pakistani counterpart to take "firm and immediate action" against those behind the attack, adding that New Delhi had passed on "specific and actionable information" about the incident.

The Pathankot attack coincided with a 25-hour seige near an Indian consulate in Afghanistan that left at least one policeman dead and 11 others wounded.