Jammu: In what is the first time militants have used drones to strike vital installations, two bombs were dropped at the IAF station in Jammu airport in the early hours of Sunday, officials said.
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 on the outskirts of the city. The second one was on the ground, the officials said.
Reports say the explosions, at 1.37 am and 1.43 am, were heard a km away.
“The attack at the IAF station in Jammu is a terror attack,” Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbag Singh told PTI.
He said the police and other agencies were working 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.
It was not immediately clear from where the drones had taken off and investigations were on to ascertain their flight path, officials said.
Investigators scanned CCTV footage, including from cameras installed on the boundary walls of the airport, in an effort to determine from where the drones came. However, all the CCTV cameras focused on the roadside, officials said.
The drones dropped the explosive material and were either flown back across the border or to some other destination during the night, the officials said.
The aerial distance from the Jammu airport to the international border is 14 km.
“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.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s office said he spoke to Vice Air Chief, Air Marshal H S Arora, over the airport incident.
In a Twitter post, the IAF 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,” it said.
Earlier in the morning, a defence spokesperson 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. Investigation is on and further details are awaited”.
Jammu airport is a civil airport with the runway and the ATC (air traffic control) under the Indian Air Force.
Jammu Airport director Pravat Ranjan Beuria told PTI that there was no disruption in flight operations due to the explosions. “Flights to and from Jammu airport are operating as per schedule,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir Police has registered an FIR under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, officials said, indicating that the case is likely to be taken over by the NIA.
“The NIA is already supervising the investigation at the scene of the blast after joining the probe,” one of the officials said.
The FIR was also registered under relevant sections of the Explosive Substances Act and the Indian Penal Code at the Satwari police station on the application of a junior warrant officer of the IAF, he said.
An alert has been sounded across Jammu and Kashmir and also in Punjab, officials said.
Tight vigil is being maintained near key installations in Jammu and in Valley besides neighbouring Pathankot, they said.
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.
This attack also 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.
Kashmir 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. With inputs from PTI
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