The two border districts of Punjab – Gurdaspur and Pathankot – were put on high alert after three men who had allegedly stolen a car in Jammu and Kashmir disappeared after abandoning the vehicle at a village in Pathankot, PTI reported. Police of both districts launched an eight-hour search operation for the trio but failed to find them.

“We have broadly identified them and we are trying our best to arrest them,” Pathankot Senior Superintendent of Police, Vivek Sheel Soni, said.

The three men are believed to have entered Punjab on Wednesday and sped through a police check-post barrier at Behrampur in Gurdaspur district in spite of being asked to stop. When the police gave chase, they dumped their vehicle in Makhanpur village in Pathankot, 15 km away from Behrampur. The police said the vehicle had been stolen from Sambha in Jammu.

Makhanpur is around 5 km from the India-Pakistan international border and is the route that had been used by the militants who had stormed the Pathankot airbase in January 2016, Hindustan Times reported.

Pathankot police searched two villages – Makhanpur and Barmal Jattan – while their counterparts in Gurdaspur combed five villages along the Ravi. “The search was also conducted in the Gujjar area,” Gurdaspur Senior Superintendent of Police Bhupinderjit Singh said.

The vehicle, which has been seized, had a fake registration number, the police said. “We have recovered the original number plate of the SUV, which bears a number JK19-2787, while the occupants had changed the number plate to PB06-6508 to dodge the police, it seems,” an unidentified police officer told Hindustan Times.

Meanwhile, an unidentified bag, containing two mobile tower batteries, was found near the Mamun army cantonment in Pathankot, ANI reported.

The heightened state of alert in Punjab is a fallout of two terrorist attacks that had taken place in the state in 2015 and 2016. In the first, three heavily-armed terrorists wearing fatigues had stormed a police station in Dinanagar town of Gurdaspur district and killed seven persons. In the second, four terrorists had sneaked in from across the border and attacked the Pathankot air base. Seven security personnel had been killed.