According to a police official on Wednesday, it was for the first time that drones were used to drop weapons and communication devices like satellite phones in Punjab from across the border. A half-burnt drone used in the operation was recovered from Tarn Taran, said the official of the Counter-Intelligence wing of the Punjab Police.
The Punjab Police on Sunday claimed to have busted a terror module of the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), backed by a group based in Pakistan and Germany. It said the terror group was conspiring to unleash a series of strikes in Punjab and adjoining states like J&K.
The police official, who gave details of the probe, said the weapons were intended to spread terror in J&K, weeks after the Centre abrogated provisions under Article 370 of the Constitution that granted special status to the state.
Four members of the KZF module -- Balwant Singh, alias Nihang, Akashdeep Singh, alias Akash Randhawa, Harbhajan Singh and Balbir Singh -- were arrested from the outskirts of Chohla Sahib village in Tarn Taran on Sunday.
During questioning, the accused told investigators that Global Positioning System(GPS)-fitted "big" drones were used to drop arms and ammunition from across the border in Tarn Taran district, "Drones were sent from across the border seven to eight times to deliver arms and ammunition," the official said, adding that the weapons were airdropped this month.
One drone can lift up to 10 kg of weight, he added.
Five AK-47 rifles, 16 magazines and 472 rounds of ammunition, four Chinese-made .30 bore pistols, along with eight magazines and 72 rounds of ammunition; nine hand grenades, five satellite phones with their ancillary equipment, two mobile phones, two wireless sets and fake currency with face value of Rs10 lakh were seized, police said.
A top Army commander said the Indian armed forces are capable of identifying drones and any military drone venturing towards the Indian side from Pakistan will be "shot down".
Interacting with reporters at Hisar Military Station in Haryana, South Western Command chief Lt Gen Alok Singh Kler also said there was "nothing to worry" at the moment.
"At present, the drones that you see being demonstrated at the event here, their capacity for carriage is very low. And, what we are hearing, the reports coming about drone being used across the border, their capacity is (also) very small.
"So, there is no need to worry," he said when asked about drones being used from across the border.
Lt Gen Kler said the systems and radars of the Indian armed forces are in place.
"And any military use of any drone, which comes to our side will be shot down by the capabilities of the Indian Air Force and the Army," he said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said as far as the country's security was concerned, the armed forces have the capability to defeat any challenges.
He was responding to a query by reporters in Chennai about Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh seeking the Union Home Ministry's help on incidents of Pakistan-origin drones dropping arms and ammunition.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Amarinder Singh said, "Recent incidents of Pakistan-origin drones dropping consignments of arms & ammunitions is a new and serious dimension on Pakistan's sinister designs in aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370. Request @AmitShah ji to ensure that this drone problem is handled at the earliest".
Police said the half-burnt drone was recovered from the godown of a rice shelling unit located in Chabhal area on Bhikhiwind road in Tarn Taran.
It was recovered based on information received from the accused during questioning, a police official told PTI.
"The accused said the drone was burnt as it failed to return to Pakistan after dropping off the first consignment of weapons in village Bhuse (in Tarn Taran)," the official said.
After it crashed, the operators of the drone in Pakistan sent the location of the crash to the accused, who recovered it and later, burnt it, the police official said.
Police, along with a forensic team, on Tuesday recovered some parts, including a GPS antenna of the drone.
"Some parts of the drone have been disposed of in a canal located near Gurdwara Baba Budha Sahib," the police official said, adding that divers will be deployed to recover them.
The Punjab Police investigation revealed that the Pakistan-based chief of the KZF, Ranjeet Singh, alias Neeta, and his Germany-based associate Gurmeet Singh, alias Bagga, were involved in delivery of weapons from across the border and with the help of local sleeper cells, they radicalised and recruited local members to foment trouble.
The Punjab government has decided to hand over the investigation to the National Investigation Agency(NIA).