Lashkar-e-Toiba emerges as main suspect as NIA takes over probe into attack on IAF stn


By Bunty Mahajan

Jammu: With investigators looking into the possible linkages between a TRF (The Resistance Front) operative arrested with nearly 5 kgs IED from outside a shopping mall in Jammu on Sunday night and the airdropping of two explosive devices at the Air Force Station in Jammu a few hours later, Lashkar-e-Toiba has emerged as the main suspect behind the drone attack, first of its kind in India, at an IAF facility here.

Pointing out that the arrested TRF (an affiliate of Lashkar-e-Toiba) operative hailed from Ramban district’s Banihal town, sources said that a police team from Jammu had even visited his residence to conduct searches. They seized some documents including books from there, a police officer said.

The National Investigation Agency on Tuesday formally took over investigations into the matter after Union Home Ministry transferred the case to it in view of its sensitive nature. The NIA registered a fresh FIR 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.

Earlier, the Jammu and Kashmir Police had registered a case under Sections 16 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

With investigators including J&K Police, NIA and the NSG bomb disposal squad unable to find any pieces of drones during extensive searches inside the IAF station and areas around, sources said it is suspected that two drones had come from across the border, dropped explosive devices at the IAF facility, and returned to their handlers sitting in Pakistan. However, the possibility of some local handler is also not ruled out, sources said.

The handlers appear to have used Google map to program the flying machines reach the desired location, but they missed the target and dropped one payload at a building near the Hanger where helicopters were stationed and another in an open place. The roof of a building was damaged and two persons injured in the explosions. There had been no damage to the equipment.

Sources said that going by the hole created in the roof and the nearly 14 km distance covered by drones from the nearest international border, the handlers appear of have used a cocktail of RDX and some other explosives to keep the payload light in weight. However, investigations are in progress and anything can be said with certainty only after these are concluded, they added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high level meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and NSA Ajit Doval to discuss futuristic defence challenges and arming defence forces with modern equipments. The drone attack at IAF station in Jammu and the sighting of drones over Kaluchak-Ratnuchak military stations also came up for discussion.

The Army had on Monday claimed to have thwarted a “major threat’’ saying that its troops opened fire on drones sighted over Ratnuchak-Kaluchak military stations and made them to fly away.