India's top counter-terrorism agency has charged a Pakistan-based militant group and its top leader with perpetrating a deadly assault on an Indian air force base in January.
India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) stated that Maulana Masood Azhar, the top leader of a militant group known as Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), was the mastermind behind the attack on January 2 in the northwestern state of Punjab.
The agency also noted that all four gunmen who stormed the air base were Pakistani nationals.
"All the terrorists are accused of waging war against India. This was a criminal conspiracy to attack our security infrastructure," a senior official at the NIA in New Delhi said.
Meanwhile, Indian investigators have said that evidence would be offered to Pakistani authorities to take action against the perpetrators of the assault.
The charge-sheet cited DNA samples and food packets from Pakistan found in woodlands near the air base. In addition, a walkie-talkie set and a note were also discovered in a car used by the militants to drive to the base.
A senior Indian home ministry official who is overseeing the investigation has demanded the deportation of the JeM leader. "We want Pakistan to arrest Maulana Masood Azhar and he should be deported to India."
Officials said the fatal January 2 assault on the Pathankot air base, which resulted in the death of at least seven Indian soldiers, bore the hallmarks of attacks by the Pakistan-based militant group. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
India has long accused Pakistan of using the militant group as a proxy to mount attacks on Indian soil.
Pakistan has rejected the involvement of its government in the attacks, saying that "non-state actors" were involved in the incidents.
The latest developments come as violence, including cross-border fire exchanges, has recently flared up between Indian and Pakistani troops along the disputed de facto border in Kashmir. The two sides accuse each other of provocation.