India probes suspected use of drones in blast at Jammu air base – officials

By Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR (Reuters) – India is investigating the suspected use of drones by separatist militants after two explosions rocked an Indian Air Force Station in the northern region of Jammu, two senior security officials said on Sunday.

The explosions in the early hours of Sunday injured two people and caused minor damage to a building, the officials said. They added that the blasts have caused concern in security circles as they could mark the first time that drones have been used in an attack in India.

New Delhi has struggled for decades to dampen secessionist sentiments in the disputed Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority population, blaming neighbouring Pakistan for supporting insurgencies there. Islamabad denies involvement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told leaders from Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday that elections would be held there once constituencies in the region have been reconfigured following the revocation two years ago of the region’s semi-autonomous statehood.

A top government official in New Delhi said Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to review the security situation and that the latest blasts are being probed.

“Investigations are in progress along with civil agencies,” the Indian Air Force tweeted on Sunday, adding one blast caused minor damage to the roof of a building at the station, while the other exploded in an open area.

“There was no damage to any equipment,” it said.

Separately, a senior security officer told Reuters that the suspected use of drones in the attack, if established, would present a major challenge for security forces in the area.

Kashmir is claimed in full by both India and its neighbour Pakistan, although each control only parts of it. The region has been a flashpoint since the two nations gained independence from British rule in 1947.

Pakistan accuses India of rights violations in Kashmir. India says Pakistan supports militants in the part of the region that it controls and it has previously accused Pakistan of using drones to supply arms to militants in Kashmir. Both nations deny the accusations.

(Additional reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal and Nigam Prusty in New Delhi; Writing by Manoj Kumar; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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