High alert in J&K, Punjab as 4 suspected terrorists hijack taxi in Pathankot

New Delhi: A massive search operation has been launched in Punjab after four suspected terrorists hijacked a taxi at gunpoint in Madhopur causing fears of a Pathankot airbase-like attack that took place in 2016.

“As per initial reports, four persons hijacked a silver colour Innova taxi having J&K registration (JK02AW-0922) from Madhopur between Punjab-Kathua,” police said.

The taxi was initially hired by the four men from Jammu. They had booked it for Pathankot. Near Madhopur, they aimed a gun at the driver and threw him out of the car and took off, the police said.

The railway station taxi union vice-president Rajvinder Singh said, “The taxi was booked in the name of Major Sarvjeet Singh and was Pathankot-bound. Our CCTV footage shows there were four people and one among them was wearing a monkey cap.”

The four had conducted a recce before hiring the cab and had paid an advance of Rs 3,550, Singh added. The occupants of the car stopped for dinner at Kathua, Singh said, quoting the driver Raj Kumar, who had a narrow escape.

“At Lakhanpur toll post, the four occupants told the staff that they were from the Army and hence exempted from paying toll tax,” Singh added.

“When the car reached Madhopur, the four men whipped out their guns with one of the occupants saying that Kumar should be killed,” added Singh. But, they finally pushed him out and drove away in the car, Singh said.

The taxi driver, with the help of passersbys, later informed the police.

“Alert has been sounded and manhunt launched in Pathankot and other adjoining areas to track them with the vehicle,” police said. Other security agencies were also put on high alert.

Kumar told Singh that the four men were talking in a Punjabi dialect, which is spoken in Pakistan’s Punjab.

Meanwhile, a senior officer of J&K police said that it cannot be ascertained at this stage if the hijackers were terrorists or is it a foul play by some local goons.

The Pathankot airbase of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was attacked by terrorists, suspected to be from Pakistan on January 2, 2016. Seven people were killed in that attack.

The area has defence establishments, including the frontier IAF base in Pathankot and the nearby Mamun Cantt of the Army.

Prior to the terrorist attack on the IAF base in 2016, suspected Pakistani terrorists had carried out an attack on Dinanagar town in neighbouring Gurdaspur district.

The Dinanagar terror attack took place on July 27, 2015 when three Pakistani terrorists entered from the border belt.