The twin blasts triggered by a drone at the Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Jammu Airport early Sunday morning could be the handiwork of Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed, according to security agencies.
Two low-intensity improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were dropped from a drone at the IAF base in Jammu around 1:30am on Sunday. The blasts took place very close to the helicopter hangar but no serious damage was reported to any equipment. Two Indian Air Force personnel, however, sustained minor injuries while a building was partially damaged in the blasts.
J&K DGP Dilbag Singh while confirming the development to CNN-News18 said that there was a “use of drone with payload in both the blasts at Jammu airfield suspected to drop the explosive material”.
Intelligence sources have revealed that the Air Traffic Control (ATC) building and the parked Mi17 choppers were the targets of the bomb blasts but both got missed. One of the blasts, however, took place 100 metres away from the ATC.
Sources have also revealed that one of the drones was carrying 5kg TNT bomb while the other had a lesser payload. Experts from the bomb unit of National Security Guard (NSG) and other agencies are further investigating the nature of the bomb.
Earlier, Jaish-e-Mohammed in connivance with Hizbul Mujahideen had regularly received ammunition from drones via their handlers from across the border in Pakistan, especially in the Samba sector of Jammu & Kashmir. On specific intelligence inputs, Over Ground Workers (OGWs) have been arrested in the area as well.
However, this is the first time that a drone has been used to target a high-security strategic asset in the middle of Jammu.
Major Terror Attack Averted
J&K DGP Dilbag Singh further told CNN-News18 that, “There was another IED of 5/6 kg weight recovered by Jammu police. This IED was received by an LET outfit operative and was to be planted at some crowded place. A major terror attack has been averted with this recovery.”
“The suspect lifted is being interrogated. More suspects likely to be picked up in this foiled IED blast attempt. Police are also working on Jammu airfield blasts along with other agencies," he further said.
Govt sources have told CNN-News18 that this is not the first drone-related bomb blast carried out in Jammu & Kashmir.
Last year, on December 20, a mysterious blast had taken place near a Temple of Jhandi village in Kathua district. Security agencies probing the blast had suspected that a drone from across the border in Pakistan caused a blast using an IED.
“The nearest international border is about 13-14 km from the Jammu Air Force Base. NIA is currently assisting with the probe led by Jammu & Kashmir Police. Movement of Jaish Over Ground Workers (OGWs) in the area has been noted in regular intervals. This incident is of very serious nature," National Investigation Agency (NIA) sources revealed to CNN-News18.
The IAF in a statement posted on Twitter had earlier said, “Two low-intensity explosions were reported early Sunday morning in the technical area of Jammu Air Force Station. One caused minor damage to the roof of a building while the other exploded in an open area.”
“There was no damage to any equipment. Investigation is in progress along with civil agencies," the statement further read.
Intel About The Use of Drones by Pakistan
CNN-News18 has also obtained a copy of Intel input from May 2020 indicating that Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) was preparing drones which could carry grenades or IED for their Hizbul Mujahideen Cadres in Jammu & Kashmir.
The Intel note suggests about a meeting held two days ahead of Ramzan (2020) in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) where it was decided to use drone prepared by Lashkar-e-Taiba, for Hizbul Mujahideen cadre in Kashmir.
“This drone will be capable of carrying 5kgs IED up to a distance of 3 km from the controller, and the controller will be able to bring it down and blast it,” the Intel input indicates.
“The meeting which was attended by Zaki-Ur-Rehman, Hamza Adnan, Mossa Bhai, Syed Salahuddin, Khalid Saifullah Sahib, Tahir Aijaz Sahib, apart from Naib Amir of Hizbul, decided that the drone would be provided to Valley cadre as soon as possible,” the note also mentions.
The twin blasts come days after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary ended in Paris where Pakistan was unable to convince the global anti-money laundering watchdog that it had been able to act against terror financing. Pakistan for now remains in the critical Grey List of FATF amidst several domestic economic challenges.
Sources indicate that the blasts could also well have been in response to a recent blast that happened in Lahore, Pakistan, outside the residence of globally designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed, who is also the mastermind of Mumbai 26/11 attacks. The Lahore blast injured more than 22 and killed three, including one from the personal security of Hafiz Saeed. Pakistan Police had blamed ‘hostile agencies’ for the blast.
Aditya Raj Kaul is Contributing Editor, News18 group with more than a decade long experience in covering Conflict, Foreign Policy, and Internal Security. He can be reached at Aditya.Kaul@nw18.com