Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh Sunday termed the twin explosions at the Air Force base in Jammu airport a "terror attack". Speaking to CNN-News18, Jammu and Kashmir DGP Dilbagh Singh confirmed that the payload was dropped using drones.
Two Indian Air Force personnel were injured in the explosions that took place around 1.40 am within six minutes of each other. The first blast ripped off the roof of a single-storey building at the high security technical area of the airport manned by the IAF in Satwari area of the city. The second one was on the ground, the officials said.
Singh said the police and other agencies were working together with IAF officials to unravel the plan behind the attack. A team from anti-terror probe agency National Investigation Agency (NIA) was also at the spot.
Preliminary reports confirmed that the blasts did not cause any major casualties or damage to equipment. However, the security forces have sealed the area to assess any further threat to security.
Crude bomb found by Jammu Police after drone attack: J&K DGP
While officials were investigating the drone attack, another major strike was averted when a person, probably owing allegiance to the banned Lashker-e-Taiba, was arrested along with an improvised explosive device weighing around six kg, the director general of police said, as per PTI.
The person was charged with triggering the IED in a crowded place.
"The suspect has been detained and is being interrogated. More suspects are likely to be picked up in this foiled IED blast attempt," Singh said.
IAF chief Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria, who is in Bangladesh on an official visit since Saturday, is constantly monitoring the situation. Reports said that Bhadauria is unlikely to cut short his official visit, but the necessary instructions have been passed down for probe into the matter.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also dialled up vice IAF chief Marshal HS Arora.
Raksha Mantri Shri @rajnathsingh spoke to Vice Air Chief, Air Marshal HS Arora regarding today’s incident at Air Force Station in Jammu. Air Marshal Vikram Singh is reaching Jammu to take stock of the situation.
— रक्षा मंत्री कार्यालय/ RMO India (@DefenceMinIndia) June 27, 2021
Singh, who is on a three-day visit to Ladakh, will also visit Jammu to take stock of the situation, ANI reported. Additionally, a high-level IAF team including Air Force Vice Chief Air Marshal Arora and Western Air commander VR Chaudhary have reached Jammu. A separate unit of National Security Guard and the National Investigation Agency is also on the spot.
Two explosions, within a gap of five minutes, rocked the high-security technical area of Jammu airport in the early hours of Sunday, officials said. "There were reports of an explosion inside Air Force Station Jammu. There is no injury to any personnel or any damage to any equipment. The investigation is on and further details are awaited," a defence spokesperson said.
There was no damage to any equipment. Investigation is in progress along with civil agencies. — Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) June 27, 2021
Officials have not confirmed if they are treating it as an attack, but News18 reported that the Jammu and Kashmir Police has lodged a case under Section 16,18, and 23 of the UAPA ACT, Sections 307 and 120 B of the IPC and under relevant sections of the Explosives Act.
Meanwhile, National Security Guard's bomb data centre team has reached the site and is carrying out tests to ascertain the kind of explosives used. Preliminary assessment suggests the use of TNT but further tests being done to come to a final conclusion.
The first blast, which took place around 1.45 am on Sunday, ripped off the roof of a building at the technical area of the airport manned by the Air Force. The second one was on the ground within five to 10 minutes of the first explosion.
In this case, however, the political backdrop and context hold as much importance as the date and time of the incident.
This attack comes two days after the Centre's outreach to Kashmiri politicians to thaw relations that were embittered after revocation of the region's statehood and stripping down of the special rights it enjoyed under the Indian Constitution since the 1950s.
The erstwhile state had been under lockdown since August 2019: First due to the ramifications of the Centre's move to abrogate Article 370, a deeply emotive issue especially in the strife-torn Valley; and then due to the coronavirus-induced curbs.
Things were finally starting to show some improvement as the Kashmiri leadership agreed for dialogue with New Delhi, and the Centre too accelerated efforts to restore democracy in the Union Territory, which has been under the presidential rule since 2018 when the alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party and People's Democratic Party disintegrated.
There is no official word on the modus operandi nor has any militant group active in the Valley taken responsibility for the blasts so far. However, news reports quoting unofficial sources claim that this was a drone attack, specifically targetting the military-run portion of the otherwise civilian airport.
"Initial probe suggests IEDs were sent by two drones which were fitted with GPS that was given the exact location and target. Sources said the attack was “serious” as both countries don’t attack sensitive installations unless it’s wartime," the News18 report said. News agency ANI also reported that this was a drone attack.
According to News18, the patrol party at the Jammu airport's technical area saw a light blinking in the air, which immediately alerted them. The on-duty staff rushed to the spot to inspect the area when an explosion happened in which 2 people sustained minor injuries. The news channel said that the theory of a drone attack was further supported by the fact that combing operations in the premises did not show signs of any infiltration.
Alert sounded in Punjab's Pathankot
An alert has been sounded in Punjab's border district of Pathankot Sunday after two explosives-laden drones crashed into the high-security Indian Air Force station at Jammu airport, officials said.
Tight vigil is being maintained near key installations in Pathankot, they said.
Five years ago, the Pathankot Air Force base had come under terror attack.
Patrolling has been strengthened near sensitive areas in and around Pathankot and additional forces have been deployed, police said. "We are on our guard in view of the situation. Whenever there is an incident of this kind, maximum alert is sounded in neighbouring areas," Pathankot's Senior SP, Surendra Lamba, told PTI over phone when asked if additional security measures have been put in place in wake of the Jammu incident.
"We are checking vigorously our inter-state border movement. We have deployed additional forces also," he said, adding, specialised commandos and SWAT teams of Punjab Police are being deployed strategically. Checking of vehicles headed to Jammu and entering Pathankot from J-K side has been intensified, Lamba said.
With inputs from PTI