Punjab Police said that heavy-lift drones were utilised by Pakistan to drop a large number of AK-47 assault rifles and grenades in Amritsar for terrorists to use and wreck havoc.
Aforementioned drones can carry up to 10 kg and they flew fast and low to evade detection.
Reportedly, Pakistani drones carried out eight 'sorties' in 10 days this month to drop 80 kg of weapons, including satellite phones, on Indian soil, The use of satellite phones by civilians is banned in India.
The investigation reveals that the Chinese commercial drones may have been launched from locations 2 km inside Pakistan, travelled five kilometres at a height of 2,000 feet, and then dropped off the weapons after descending to 1200 ft. The payload was slung from the platform using Chinese mountaineering ropes.
All the weapons and fake notes worth Rs 10 lakh were recovered from four terrorists of Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) arrested on Sunday (22 September) while they were travelling in a car with Punjab registration number.
Two of them have multiple criminal cases against them and have been incarcerated in Amritsar jail in the past.
This was followed by the September 22 weapons seizure at Tarn Taran district adjacent to Pakistan border, Eight payloads were dropped in Amritsar and Tarn Taran. A fifth member was also arrested by the Punjab police on the same day. The 22-year-old was radicalised by the prime accused in the case in Amritsar jail.
“The consignment contained five satellite phones, which hints that the delivery was meant for Jammu and Kashmir since mobile internet connection is still snapped in the valley," said a senior police officer, adding that the smuggling from the Pakistani side has also increased since abrogation of special status of Kashmir.
The interrogation of those arrested reveals that the Germany and Pakistan-based KZF coordinators made deliveries of at least four weapons, grenades, electronics, and fake currency through drones. The deliveries were made on the intervening nights of September 6/7, 9/10 and the last one on 15/16.
The last drone crashed 2 km from the border near a drain at Rajoke Village, Khalra police station, in Tarn Taran. After the crash, the drone’s eight Chinese batteries were stripped off by the accused on instructions from across the border. Entire operation came to light after the discovery of the burnt drone.
“It has also been revealed that such deliveries took place on four different dates, mostly between 9.30 pm and 10.30 pm with the drone making two sorties within an hour,” said a senior Punjab Police official.
Five AK-47 rifles with magazines weighing close to four kilograms, four Chinese pistols, nine HE grenades, Rs 10 lakh fake currency, 1000 rounds of ammunition and two electronic receivers have been recovered from the accused, the official added.
Drone activity was also seen in Punjab’s Ferozepur district and the Indian Air Force and Border Security Force officials have been instructed to use low-level radars to detect and then destroy the drones.
While both India and Pakistan have been using drones for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes, their usage for weapons delivery is new and may open another arena of escalation and low-intensity conflict. After the surgical strikes and heightened vigilance at the border, Pakistan’s strategy of cross-border terrorist infiltration was under pressure.
Officials fear that such drones could also be used to carry and drop off bombs. The incident comes at the heels of drone attacks on oil facilities of Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels.
"Recent incidents of Pakistan-origin drones dropping consignments of arms and ammunition is a new and serious dimension on Pakistan's sinister designs in aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370. Request Amit Shah ji to ensure that this drone problem is handled at the earliest," the Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh tweeted yesterday.