Drone were used for explosion inside the premises of Air Force Station, Satwari campus, Jammu (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@ShivAroor)
Immediately after receiving a formal order of assignment from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has on Tuesday registered a case under different sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code and taken over investigation into an unprecedented drone attack on the Air Force Station Jammu on Sunday, 27 June.
“Today (29.06.2021), in pursuance of order of MHA, Government of India, NIA has reregistered the case FIR No. 170/2021 of PS Satwari, district Jammu dated 27.06.2021 as RC-03/2021/NIA/JMU under sections 3 & 4 of Explosive Substances Act, 1908, sections 13, 16, 18 and 23 of the UA (P) Act, 1967 and sections 307, 120B of IPC, 1860”, said a press release issued by the Central agency.
“The case relates to an explosion that occurred inside the premises of the Air Force Station, Satwari campus, Jammu on 27.06.2021 and a subsequent blast, after about 6 minutes carried out by drones in a well-planned conspiracy that led to the injury to two Air Force personnel and damaged the office buildings. While NIA has been working with other agencies since immediately after the incident, pursuant to reregistration of the case, requisite actions as per law, for expeditious investigation of case have been initiated”, the press release concluded.
Well-placed authoritative sources revealed that a special team of the NIA flew in from New Delhi on Tuesday and make a thorough inspection of the AFS site where one of the IEDs, dropped by a low-flying drone, had ripped off the roof of a building close to a helicopter hangar and not far away from the Indian Air Force’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower. The ATC manages traffic, route clearance and security for the IAF base as well as the adjoining civil airport in Jammu.
The second IED, which went off in five minutes of the first blast, reportedly hit an open area, causing minor injuries to two IAF personnel.
Even as ordinary amateur drones are known to have intruded into the Indian air space from the Pakistani side and dropped arms, ammunition and drugs on at least 12 occasions along the LoC and the International Border in Kashmir, Jammu and Punjab in the last two years, an IED attack through a drone has occurred for the first time in the country.
Sources said that the NIA would hold the investigation in coordination with National Security Guards, IAF, Army, the J&K Police and the Central intelligence agencies even as the IAF would separately hold an internal inquiry. “However, the investigation would be carried out independently without involving any foreign country”, said an official, while ruling out the possibility of access to the Pakistani agencies.
The Central government’s decision to involve a Pakistani agency with the NIA investigation into the 2 January 2016 attack on the IAF base in Pathankot had triggered a major controversy as a team of the foreign agency gained access to the high security station.
Meanwhile, the J&K Police has started an exercise of examination and registration of all authorised drones and seizure of illegal drones. Srinagar-based photojournalist Basit Zargar said that his ‘professional drone’ was seized by officers of Nehru Park Police Station. “I have properly applied for the permission. But a Police officer asked me to deposit the drone at the local Police Station. He told me that a criminal case was being filed against me under section 160 CrPC”, Zargar said.
The media fraternity in Srinagar has requested senior Police officers to process the case of Zargar’s permission to the drone, which he uses strictly for professional purposes far away from the security forces camps and installations. The officials have been requested not to book the professional photojournalist in a criminal case.
A senior official maintained that private use of drones was not permitted in the capital city of Srinagar.
“Recently Central government has added the local Police as a stakeholder for enforcement and action as per the applicable IPC sections. All kinds of drones—nano, micro and small—require a UIN and UAOP number from DGCA, certified by Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and cleared by MHA and the Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing of the Department of Telecommunications”, said another senior government functionary. He said that only the drones acquired through legal custom channels were being considered for permission while the drones purchased from unauthorised channels were supposed to be seized with registration of a criminal case against the unauthorised owners.
“A large number of such cases are already pending with the authorities across India”, said the government official.
Inspector General of Police Kashmir range, Vijay Kumar, said that drones were a "new technical threat" and all the security agencies had jointly reviewed the situation and put all the security installations and the LoC on high alert after the Jammu incident.
“GoC 15 Corps and I, along with officials of other security agencies, reviewed the drone threat. It’s a new security challenge and a technical threat. We will deal with it technically”, he asserted in a conversation with the media. He said that appropriate deployment had been made at all vital installations.