LeT planned successive drone attacks in J&K: Intel
“Ek kaam to ho gaya, doosra baad me dekh lenge (One job is done, second will be taken care of later),” terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba’s handlers from across the border told their counterparts in India after two separate drone-based missions to Jammu and Kashmir on June 27, according to central intelligence agencies who intercepted the conversation.
While the first mission referred to was successful, with two sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) exploding within a gap of six minutes inside Air Force Station, Satwari, Jammu, on June 27, the second mission failed after the Jammu and Kashmir police apprehended Nadeem-ul-Haq, a resident of Ramban, when he was returning after picking up a 5.5kg IED dropped by another drone in Jammu. Two more people — Nadeem Ayoub Rather of Shopian and Talib-ur-Rehman of Banihal were arrested on the same day.
The central intelligence agencies have established a link between the two incidents through the audio intercept of LeT handlers in which they can be heard bragging about the success of the first mission (IAF base attack) while vowing to take care of the second mission at a later stage.
A counter-terrorism official familiar with the development said, “LeT planned to carry out back-to-back drone attacks on June 27, sending drones probably from the same location in Pakistan. Powered by long-range batteries and flying at the height of 1 to 1.2km, the drones travelled at night. Technical help, including the know-how of global positioning system (GPS) for such operations is provided by the Pakistan Army or the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence).”
In the Jammu IAF base attack, the bombs exploded at a distance of 50 yards from each other, and officials believe that the air traffic control (ATC), parked helicopters or radars were the targets.
The target of the second IED, picked up by Nadeem-ul-Haq in Bathindi area (Jammu), is not known yet but it was to be used on the same day (June 27) somewhere in Jammu, a second counter-terrorism officer said on condition of anonymity. LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad are known to share information only on a need-to-know-basis with their overground workers, couriers and operational teams.
In both instances, central agencies suspect the drones flew in from a village in Pakistan about 14.5km from Jammu airport. The exact route could not be established as the drones returned after the drops, said the second officer.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is currently investigating both the incidents and has questioned several villagers to trace the possible route of the drones.
Counter-terrorism officials cited above explained that LeT/JeM and ISI are increasingly using commercially available drones to avoid capture of their men and for deniability.
According to an assessment by security agencies, since August 2019, when the Indian government abrogated Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and ended its special status, there have been close to 300 sightings of drones from across the border.
Apart from LeT and Jaish, Khalistani terror organisations operating from Pakistani soil, too, are using drones to drop weapons, explosives and drugs in Punjab. On August 9, an improvised bomb in a tiffin box was dropped in Amritsar, allegedly by a Khalistan terror group.
The government has already fast-tracked the process to procure anti-drone technologies in the last couple of months.