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Pakistan probe team in Pathankot

Members of the Pakistani investigation team after their arrival at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on 27 March 2016

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AFP

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The five-member Pakistani team arrived in India on Monday

A five-member Pakistani team has arrived at Pathankot air force base in India to investigate a deadly militant attack on the base in January.

Opposition parties have severely criticised the government for letting the team, which includes a Pakistani intelligence officer, visit the area.

India has accused Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad of carrying out the assault.

Seven Indian soldiers and six militants were killed in the attack.

Pakistan has said it has arrested several members of Jaish-e-Mohammad.

The investigation team left in bullet-proof cars from Amritsar, in Punjab, for Pathankot on Tuesday morning, Indian media reports said.

Authorities have said the visitors would have “limited access” to the base and that they would be taken to the area where the attackers fought a gun-battle with the security forces on 2 January.

Some sensitive areas on the base have been barricaded and would be out of bounds for the Pakistanis, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said.

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AP

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Seven Indian soldiers died in the attack on the Pathankot air base

Meanwhile, small groups of demonstrators have held protests outside the base, demanding that the Pakistani team should not be allowed in since Pakistanis were thought to be involved in the deadly attack.

This is the first time that Pakistani intelligence and police officials have travelled to India to investigate a militant attack.

In February, police in Pakistan registered a complaint against “unknown persons” over the Pathankot attack.

An official of the interior ministry of Pakistan had filed the complaint, which mentioned some Pakistani mobile numbers provided by Indian authorities.

Scepticism over claim

The United Jihad Council (UJC) – a coalition of more than a dozen militant groups fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir – said they carried out the attack.

But the claim was met with scepticism – the UJC is not known to have carried out attacks outside Indian-administered Kashmir – and India instead blamed Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Started by Masood Azhar, the Islamist militant group has been blamed for attacks on Indian soil in the past, including one in 2001 on the Indian parliament which took the nuclear-armed rivals to the brink of war.

Pathankot: A strategic location

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EPA

  • The Pathankot air force base extends over about 2,000 acres, including some areas covered with tall vegetation.
  • The base’s commanding officer Air Commodore JS Dhamoon has described it as a “mini-city”. It includes homes and a school for the children of air force personnel.
  • Pathankot is home to a fleet of MiG-21 fighter jets and Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, along with other military hardware.
  • It occupies a highly strategic position on the main highway connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country. It is also very close – about 35km – to the border with Pakistan.

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