Drone sightings continue, NIA takes over case
*Army, IAF top officials brief DM
JAMMU, June 29: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today met Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and discussed future challenges in defence sector amid reports that terror attacks using drones at Indian Air Force (IAF) Station at Satwari, near here, also figured during the discussions and India could soon have ‘Drone Policy’ even as the Union Home Ministry today formally handed over investigations in first such attacks in the country to the National Investigating Agency (NIA), whose teams were already camping at the spot.
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Though there was no official statement by the Army today, reports said suspicious activity of three drones was spotted over Kaluchak, Ratnuchak and Kunjwani Military Stations in wee hours of this morning.
Earlier in the day, Rajnath Singh reached New Delhi after three days visit to Ladakh and was given detailed briefing on drone attacks by top officials of the IAF. Despite being in Ladakh visiting forward military installations along Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, Rajnath was constantly in touch with IAF officials, both in New Delhi as well as Jammu, after twin drone attacks at the IAF Station Satwari in early hours of June 27. The drones were reportedly launched from across the border and attack was stated to be the handiwork of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) outfit, as already reported by the Excelsior.
Sources said the Prime Minister met Shah, Rajnath and Doval in the afternoon and discussed with them future challenges in defence sector and equipping Armed Forces with modern equipments.
However, the drone attacks on Indian Air Force Stations at Satwari, the first of its kind terror strikes in the country, were reported to have figured in the meeting. Drone strikes have also emerged as new challenge for security forces as they can hit the targets which has been shown by the attacks on IAF Station. Though only two IAF personnel sustained injuries and there was very minor damage in the attacks, the fact that drones managed to drop bombs inside the high valued target has become a matter of serious concern.
Preparedness of the troops to respond to such attacks was reviewed by the top leadership of the country; sources said and pointed out that the India could shortly have its drone policy.
Earlier, the drones were only being used by Pakistan and the militant outfits to airdrop weapons to this side from the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab but this was for the first time that they were used for terror attacks at strategic location.
Prior to the Prime Minister’s meeting, Rajnath met Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane and Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria.
Besides IAF Satwari attacks, the Defence Minister was also briefed on sudden surge in drone sightings in Jammu especially around military installations. He has been monitoring the situation on ground since Sunday from Ladakh where he was for the last three days as part of review of operational preparedness of the troops along LAC with China.
Meanwhile, suspicious movement of three drones was reportedly spotted over as many military installations at Kaluchak, Ratnuchak and Kunjwani between 1.10 am to 3.10 am, sources said.
However, there was no official statement from the Army on whether the drones had been spotted or not. Army neither denied nor confirmed the fresh drone sightings over the Army Stations.
Yesterday, the Army had stated that its troops foiled two attacks by the drones at Ratnuchak and Kaluchak.
Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs today issued an order formally handing over the investigations in IAF Satwari terror attacks to the NIA.
The NIA was part of investigations right from the day one but it took over the probe officially today. An NIA team from New Delhi is likely to reach Jammu shortly to assist its Jammu office in the investigations.
On the day of attack, Satwari Police Station under whose jurisdiction the Indian Air Force technical airport is located, which was target of the drone attacks, had registered a First Information Report (FIR) under various Sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
In pursuance of the Home Ministry order, the NIA said it has re-registered the case of Police Station Satwari dated June 27.
The case was registered at the NIA Jammu under various sections of the Explosive Substances Act, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and sections 307 (attempt to murder), 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, an agency spokesperson said.
Sections 3 and 4 of the Explosive Substances Act (causing explosion likely to endanger life or property/attempt to cause explosion, or for making or keeping explosives with intent to endanger life or property) have also been included.
The spokesperson said the case relates to an explosion that occurred inside the premises of the Air Force Station, Satwari campus, Jammu and a subsequent blast, after about six 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 the NIA has been working with other agencies since immediately after the incident, pursuant to the re-registration of the case, requisite actions as per law, for expeditious investigation of case have been initiated,” the spokesperson said.
Teams of National Security Guards (NSG) were also camping at the IAF Station.
Excelsior had today exclusively reported the use of RDX in compact device fitted in three layers on twin drones which were used in the terror attacks at IAF Station in early hours of Saturday morning. The drones had dropped bombs from a height and then disappeared. Two IAF personnel had sustained injuries in the attack while there was minor damage to a building in the blasts.
As reported, the security experts were of the view that the drones had been launched from across the border.
Meanwhile, a team of Delhi Police’s Special Cell has reached Jammu to study and analyse the terror attack at IAF Station.
“They have come to study the incident, not as part of any investigation. This is routine procedure,” sources said.
The team will analyse the incident, the officials said, adding that they would be interacting with the investigating agencies to analyse the threats and ensure adequate preparedness for any similar attempt in the future.