Indian officials have said they suspect explosive-laden drones were used to attack an air force base in Jammu city in Indian-administered Kashmir, calling it the first such incident of its kind in the country.
Dilbagh Singh, the police director-general in the region officially called Jammu and Kashmir, told the private news channel New Delhi Television (NDTV) on Sunday that “drones with payload were used in [two] blasts.” Singh called the attack an act of “terrorism”.
India’s air force tweeted that the attack caused minor damage to the roof of a building at the station, while another blast hit an open area.
“There was no damage to any equipment,” it said.
Two low intensity explosions were reported early 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.
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) June 27, 2021
The explosions in the early hours of Sunday injured two people, unnamed security officials told Reuters news agency.
They added that the blasts, which occurred barely 14km from the de facto border with Pakistan, have caused concern in security circles as they could mark the first time that drones have been used in an attack in India.
Singh told NDTV that a crude bomb was later found in another location.
He blamed the attacks on armed groups in Kashmir, who want the Himalayan region either to be independent or merged with neighbouring Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan claim the Muslim-majority region in its entirety but control only parts of it.
The airbase in Jammu is also used as a civilian airport, and the Press Trust of India news agency quoted the airport’s director, Pravat Ranjan Beuria, as saying there was no disruption to civilian flights.
Indian authorities said forensic investigators were surveying the area and were later joined by the country’s premier anti-terrorism agency, the National Investigation Agency.
New Delhi has stationed more than half a million forces in the region – making it one of the most militarised zones in the world – as it tried to quell an armed rebellion that erupted in the late 1980s.
India has accused Pakistan of backing armed rebels – a charge Islamabad has denied. The region has been a flashpoint since the two nations gained independence from British rule in 1947. They have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.
Both countries claim to have shot down spy drones in the parts of Kashmir under their respective control.
The United Nations and rights groups have criticised New Delhi for human rights abuses in Kashmir.
Last week, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a crucial meeting with pro-India politicians from Kashmir for the first time since New Delhi stripped the region’s semi-autonomy and imposed a slew of administrative changes, which many likened to the beginning of settler colonialism.