In what is believed to be the first use of drones in a terror attack on an Indian military facility, two blasts took place at the Air Force base in Jammu Airport in the early hours of Sunday.
Two Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel suffered minor injuries in the explosions that took place a little before 2 am at the high security airport located around 14 km from the border with Pakistan. Reports say the explosions, at 1.37 am and 1.43 am, were heard a km away.
One of the blasts caused damage to the roof of a building in the technical section while another bomb exploded in an open area.
“The attack at the IAF station in Jammu is a terror attack,” said Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbag Singh.
An FIR has been registered under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act that allows the arrest of suspects and their detention for up to six months without evidence. The National Investigation Agency has taken over the probe.
Teams from the IAF, the National Bomb Data Centre, forensic experts and the Jammu and Kashmir police are also investigating the attack.
The police chief said another major strike was averted when a terrorist, believed to be working for the Pakistan-based outfit Lashker-e-Taiba, was arrested with an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) that was to be used for a strike “in a crowded place”. The arrest is not linked to the airport attack, Dilbagh Singh said.
“Drones with payload were used in both the blasts at Jammu airfield. Another crude bomb was found by the Jammu police. This IED was received by a Lashkar e Taiba operative and was to be planted at some crowded place,” Mr Singh told NDTV.
The Jammu airport is a dual use facility under IAF control, also used to operate passenger flights. Jammu Airport director Pravat Ranjan Beuria told PTI there was no disruption in flights.
The blasts took place hours before Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Army Chief General MM Naravane began a three-day visit to Ladakh to review India’s operational readiness and to interact with troops in the backdrop of a drawn-out standoff with China.
There have been reports over the past two years of Pakistan using drones to drop weapons across the border.
The first incident emerged in August 2019 in Punjab when a crashed drone was found in a village in Amritsar.
In September, terrorists arrested by security forces allegedly revealed that drugs and weapons were dropped in Punjab in eight drone sorties.
In June 20 last year, the Border Security Force (BSF) shot down a suspected spy drone in the Kathua district of Jammu. The very next month, a network of tunnels from across the border were revealed in Jammu.
In September, the Jammu and Kashmir police found weapons dropped from drones at a village in Akhnoor, also in Jammu. Three militants who had received weapons through such drops were arrested.