There is a “strong” suspicion that the Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind Sunday morning’s drone terror attack on the Indian Air Force Station in Jammu, but the “involvement” of Pakistani agencies cannot be ruled out, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Dilbagh Singh said on Friday.
This is because another IED attack had been planned by the Lashkar at a crowded place in Jammu that same evening, the police chief told reporters.
“We have a strong suspicion that the LeT is involved in this case,” Singh said. “Since the LeT outfit is run from Pakistan, in a way Pakistan’s involvement cannot be ruled out,” he said.
However, “to what extent Pakistani agencies were involved, is a question that would be answered only when the investigations proceed further,’’ he added.
The DGP said that “an IED was sent by LeT in a similar fashion from Pakistan, and it was to be planted at some crowded place so that there were the largest possible casualties in that attack”.
But “luckily, we had the information and we were able to intercept and capture that fellow (the alleged Lashkar operative) who gave certain leads, and on the basis of that we recovered the IED and the terror attack was averted,” he said.
The DGP spoke to reporters after the attestation-cum-passing-out parade of the 27th Basic Recruitment Training Course (BRTC) in Kathua district on Friday.
Singh said there have been more than a dozen incidents in which the LeT was involved in the dropping of weapons and IEDs using drones — therefore, “we have a strong suspicion that LeT is involved in this case”.
Asked where the drone in the IAF base attack came from, Singh said it was “very possible” that it had flown into India from across the border.
“The earlier drones too had covered a distance of 10 to 14-15 km… The aerial distance of the airport is not more than that, and the structured route which the drone is suspected to have taken is also within the range of 15 km (from the border),” he said.
Singh pointed to “initial indications and questioning of the people we have caught”, and the fact that “we already have [had] incidents of drone droppings [of weapons] in this area” — in Akhnoor, Arnia, and Samba.
So, “it is very possible that it (the drone that attacked the IAF station) has come from across (the border), but other angles would also be not ruled out,” he said.
The use of drones by terrorists posed a “very serious threat”, the DGP said. “We have to relook at the security of vital places and vital persons…,” he said.
Speaking at an online conference on Friday, both Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said the country is working to build capability in drone and counter-drone systems.
“We have mechanisms as to how we should counter drones,” Gen Rawat said at an event organised by the think tank Global Counter Terrorism Council. “Wherever we have got counter drone systems, we have deployed.”
However, “These (drones) are gradually coming in larger numbers and we need a very large number of counter-drone systems if we have to defend our nation’s strategic assets. We are gradually building those capabilities and building the number we require,” Gen Rawat said.
The Chief of Defence Staff warned that it was not “necessary that the next attack will involve only drones”. “We need to be prepared for the future. Therefore, grey zone warfare or hybrid warfare can involve anything. You have to be prepared for all these,” he said.
“You have to send a strong message that anything of this nature, whether in grey zone or hybrid in nature, if it damages our assets and affects our national security, we should reserve the right to respond at a place and time of our choosing and in a manner in which we respond…”
Speaking at the same conference, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria described the incident at the Jammu airbase as “essentially a terrorist act which attempted to target our assets there”.
“The attempts failed, of course; our assets were not damaged,” he said. The “agencies concerned” have launched a very detailed investigation, the Air Chief said.
Bhadauria said both hardkill and softkill capabilities to destroy a drone or to jam its signals “have been addressed to a large extent”. Indigenously developed softkill options “are already in the field”, he said, and delivery of another such indigenous system will start within a month.
Also, Bhadauria said, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has a “nearly functional system for hardkill”, and that it was a matter of time before trials are completed and the system is put into production.
Rawat said negotiations with the Chinese on the situation along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh were ongoing at the political, diplomatic and military levels.
“…There are suspicions on both sides and this will take time, and in a gradual manner we should be able to achieve status quo. Both the nations understand that returning to status quo is the best way of ensuring peace and tranquility,” he said.
Bhadauria said that apart from pulling back certain aircraft from forward areas, China has not reduced any infrastructure. After the initial disengagement, “there is virtual kind of status quo”, he said.
Till the issue is resolved, “we need to monitor the situation”, the Air Chief said, adding that “from air power point of view, we are monitoring…very carefully, very closely…”
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