Chandigarh: China-made drones, capable of carrying a 10 kg payload each, made at least eight sorties this month to drop weapons, counterfeit currency and communications equipment across the heavily-guarded international border in once-militant hotbed Punjab, an intelligence official said on Wednesday.
The weapons belonged to Pakistan-based Khalistani terror groups. The sorties, first of their kind in the state, were made between September 9 and 16, the official associated the state's counter-intelligence wing, which is investigating the incident, told IANS.
Terrorist Akashdeep Singh, who has been arrested in this connection, has confessed that he was in touch with Pakistan-based terrorist Ranjeet Singh Neeta on the arms drops, said the official, requesting anonymity.
Police have also recovered a drone, the last one, that crashed in the Indian territory. It was fitted with high-end technology and GPS.
Three days ago, in a major crackdown on terror, the police busted a module of the revived Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), the Pakistan-backed, Germany-based militant group that was conspiring to unleash a series of terrorist strikes in Punjab and adjoining states, especially Jammu and Kashmir.
A cache of arms, including five AK-47 rifles, and other material was also seized in the raid in border Tarn Taran district.
Given the international links and the ramifications of the conspiracy, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has decided to hand over further investigations in the case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to ensure that the entire conspiracy is fully and expeditiously unraveled.
He also sought Union Home Minister Amit Shah's intervention.
"Recent incidents of Pakistan-origin drones dropping consignments of arms & ammunition 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," he said in a series of tweets.
The Chief Minister has also urged the Central government to direct the Indian Air Force and the Border Security Force to launch necessary counter-measures to check any further hostile attempts.
Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta told reporters that the weapons were suspected to have been delivered by drones launched by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and state-sponsored jihadi and pro-Khalistani terrorist outfits working under its command.
He said that the purpose seems to have been scaling up terrorism and militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and the Indian hinterland, in the wake of the recent developments in the Kashmir Valley.
He said the police operation was based on different inputs gathered from sources that activists of the banned KZF planned to carry out multiple terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and other states.
In an operation carried out by Assistant Inspector General, Counter Intelligence, Ketan Baliram Patil, along with various Punjab Police teams based in Chandigarh, four module members were arrested and arms, ammunition, explosives and communication devices seized.
Gupta said the module was backed by the Pakistan-based KZF chief Neeta, and his Germany-based associate Gurmeet Singh, who had re-organised their outfit to revive terrorism in Punjab.
With the help of local sleeper cells, they had spotted, radicalised and recruited local members, besides arranging funds and sophisticated weapons from across the border for operationalising their modules.
Those arrested in the raid have been identified as Baba Balwant Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Balbir Singh - with the first two having a criminal past and multiple cases against them.
Altogether, five AK-47 rifles, along with 16 magazines and 472 rounds of ammunition, four Chinese made .30 bore pistols, along with magazines and 72 rounds of ammunition, nine hand grenades, five Thuraya satellite phones and Rs 10 lakh in fake Indian currency notes have been recovered from them, the police said.