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Saturday, January 2, 2016, 18:33

4 gunmen, 2 troops dead in attack on India air base

By Agencies

4 gunmen, 2 troops dead in attack on India air base
Indian security forces stand guard near a road barrier outside an Indian air force base in Pathankot, 430 kilometers (267 miles) north of New Delhi, India, Jan 2, 2016.  (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

PATHANKOT, India — Indian troops killed four gunmen who had entered an Indian air force base near the border with Pakistan and exchanged fire with security forces on Saturday, officials and news reports said. At least two Indian soldiers were also killed.

The gunmen entered the living quarters of the Pathankot air force base, about 430 kilometers (267 miles) north of New Delhi, before dawn Saturday but were not able to penetrate the area with fighter helicopters and other equipment, said air force spokeswoman Rochelle D'Silva.

Press Trust of India news agency quoted police as saying that four attackers were killed following the hourslong gunbattle and police started an operation to clear a wider area of other possible intruders.

Pathankot, in Punjab state, is on the highway that connects India's insurgency wracked Jammu and Kashmir state with the rest of the country. It's also very close to India's border with rival Pakistan.

Police were investigating whether the militants came from the Indian portion of Kashmir or from Pakistan. Rebels routinely stage attacks in Indian-held Kashmir, where they've been fighting since 1989 for an independent Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan.

Saturday's attack comes just a week after India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unannounced visit to Pakistan to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The visit was seen as a potential sign of thawing relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. The two heads of government also had an unscheduled meeting at the Paris climate change talks.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Kashmir's insurgents, a charge Islamabad denies. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the violence in the Indian portion of Kashmir.

India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters Saturday that India wanted peace with Pakistan, but "if there is any kind of terror attack on India, we will give it a fitting reply."

Pakistan condemned the attack, with the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad extending condolences to the government and people of India.

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