ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan on Wednesday announced the arrest of "several individuals" from an outlawed Islamic militant group believed to be linked to a four-day assault on an Indian air base earlier this month that killed seven Indian soldiers.
The government announced the arrests in a statement after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided over a meeting to discuss security issues. The meeting was also attended by Pakistan's army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif, the country's intelligence chief and other security officials.
The statement said an investigation into the incident has made "considerable progress," leading to the arrest of several individuals from the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group. All six militants who took part in the attack were killed by Indian forces.
India has long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to Islamic militants who have staged cross-border attacks and battled Indian forces in the disputed Kashmir region.
Pakistan was quick to condemn the air base attack, and Sharif spoke to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, expressing condolences and saying Pakistan would investigate any information that India provides.
But the attack raised concerns over peace talks planned for Friday between the two longtime regional rivals.
In a separate statement, Sharif's office said the government has set up a committee "to probe the allegations of alleged involvement of certain individuals" in the incident in India. The committee is headed by a senior officer at the Counter Terrorism Department, Rai Tahir, and its members are officers from the civil and military intelligence agencies.
Also Wednesday, Pakistani media reported that authorities had taken Maulana Masood Azhar, the head of the Jaish-e-Mohammad group, into custody or questioning.
The government did not confirm or deny reports about Azhar's detention. However, two security officials said Azhar's brother and 13 other men were detained for questioning this week. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Indian defense officials have said that six heavily armed gunmen entered the Pathankot air base before dawn on Jan. 2. Indian troops exchanged gunfire with the men before finally killing all six on Tuesday evening.
The United Jehad Council, an alliance of 13 Kashmir-based rebel groups, claimed that its "highway squad," which usually attacks military convoys, carried out the attack. The council is believed to be based in Pakistan's section of Kashmir, the divided Himalayan region claimed in its entirety by both nuclear-armed powers.
Indian investigators have said that phone intercepts suggest that the gunmen came from Pakistan.
In his phone conversation with Sharif, Modi asked Islamabad "to take firm and immediate action" against those linked to the attackers. "Specific and actionable information in this regard has been provided to Pakistan," a statement from his office said last week.
The attack was seen as an attempt to derail the Pakistan-India peace process and came just days after Modi paid a surprise Dec. 25 visit to Pakistan.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Kashmir insurgents in its portion of Kashmir. Pakistan says it only provides moral and diplomatic support.
Associated Press writers Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi and Asim Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan contributed to this report.