NEW DELHI: Investi­gators began probing a suspected drone strike on an air base in India-occupied Jammu on Sunday, with experts saying such an attack would be a first such test for New Delhi and raise concerns about security at military installations.

“Two low-intensity explosions were reported early on 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,” the Indian Air Force tweeted.

“There was no damage to any equipment. Investiga­tion is in progress along with civil agencies.”

Dilbagh Singh, the police chief of India-occupied Kashmir, said in a statement that a “drone with payload” was suspected to have been used to “drop the explosive material”.

He called the incident a “terror attack” in an interview with the Press Trust of India.

The Indian Express newspaper reported that two people had been arrested over the incident, while two people at the air base suffered minor injuries.

A team from New Delhi’s counter-terrorism task force, the National Investi­gation Agency, reached Jammu late on Sunday night to probe the incident, according to an official.

Police have reportedly filed a first information report (FIR) about the attack under anti-terrorism laws. Dilbagh Singh, the police chief, did not say which individuals or groups were suspected as being behind the blasts.

Retired Lt. General D.S. Hooda, who until 2016 headed India’s Northern Command, said the military radar system can detect threats such as aircraft and larger unmanned aerial vehicles -- but perhaps not drones.

“It could have been a potent attack -- there is no need to physically cross over into a military establishment, you could attack it from the air,” Hooda said.

“We have to start looking at seriously monitoring drone activity and getting anti-drone systems in place as soon as possible.”

Singh said that later on Sunday, police recovered an explosive device weighing some five to six kilograms at a different location, and one suspect was detained -- but told local media the arrest was not linked to the air base strike.

He said a “major terror attack” had been averted, as the device was allegedly “received by an LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) outfit operative and was to be planted at some crowded place”.

The Jammu incident came three days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met occupied Kashmir’s leaders for the first time since the Aug 5, 2019, move to end the held state’s special status.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2021

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