GPS-fitted drones capable of lifting up to 10 kg flew in from Pakistan seven to eight times to airdrop the cache of arms, ammunition and fake currency seized in Punjab's Tarn Taran district, a police probe revealed on Wednesday.
It was the first incident reported in Punjab, in which drones were used to drop weapons and communication devices, among others, from across the border, an official said, adding that a half-burnt drone used in the operation was recovered from Tarn Taran.
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. Four members of the 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 the same day.
During questioning, the accused told investigators that GPS-fitted "big" drones were used to drop arms and ammunition from across the border in Tarn Taran district, an official of the Counter-Intelligence wing of the Punjab Police said on Wednesday.
"Drones were sent from across the border for seven to eight times to deliver arms and ammunition," the official said, adding that consignment of weapons was delivered 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 Rs 10 lakh were seized.
Though investigations are underway, it is believed that the weapons meant were to be used to spread terror in Jammu and Kashmir. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday described the use of drones for delivery of weapons as "a new and serious dimension on Pakistan's sinister designs" after abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Notably, India last month abrogated provisions under Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile, police recovered a half-burnt drone 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 on the condition of anonymity.
"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, 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, recovered some parts, including a GPS antenna, of drone on Tuesday. "Some parts of 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 those.
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 the 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 already decided to hand over the investigation to the National Investigation Agency.
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