New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) on Tuesday wee hours attacked terror camps in Balakot area in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, targeting key operatives of dreaded terror outfit—Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which carried out a debilitating attack on CRPF convoy in Pulwama on February 14 in which as many as 40 jawans were killed.
Briefing the press about IAF strikes on JeM targets, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said: “In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of Tuesday, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot.” IAF hit JeM camps at 3.30 am.
“In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis, who were being trained for fidayeen action, were eliminated. This facility at Balakot was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghouri, the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, chief JeM,” said Gokhale.
“Credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country, and the fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose. In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became absolutely necessary,” he said.
“The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism. Hence, this non-military preemptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp,” he said.
“The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties. The facility is located in the thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence. As the strike has taken place only a short while ago, we are awaiting further details,” he said.
“The Government of Pakistan had made a solemn commitment in January 2004 not to allow its soil or territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India. We expect that Pakistan lives up to its public commitment and takes follow up actions to dismantle all JeM and other camps and hold the terrorists accountable for the actions,” he said.
Gokhale further said: “On February 14, 2019, a suicide terror attack was conducted by a Pak based terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad, leading to the martyrdom of 40 brave jawans of the CRPF. JeM has been active in Pakistan for the last two decades, and is led by Masood Azhar with its headquarters in Bahawalpur.”
“This organisation, which is proscribed by the UN, has been responsible of a series of terrorist attacks including on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and the Pathankot airbase in January 2016,” he said.
“Information regarding the location of training camps in Pakistan and PoJK has been provided to Pakistan from time to time. Pakistan, however, denies their existence. The existence of such massive training facilities capable of training hundreds of jihadis could not have functioned without the knowledge of Pakistan authorities,” he said.
“India has been repeatedly urging Pakistan to take action against the JeM to prevent jihadis from being trained and armed inside Pakistan. Pakistan has taken no concrete actions to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil,” he said.
IAF targeted JeM camps in Balakot, Chakothi, and Muzaffarabad. Balakot is believed to be the biggest JeM hideout in Pakistan. Balakot was earlier confused with Bala Kote, which is located along the Line of Control (LoC), very close to Rajouri and Azmatabad in Jammu and Kashmir.
Talking about the IAF strikes, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “If this is Balakot in KPK, it is a major incursion and a significant strike by the IAF planes.”
“However, if it’s Bala Kote in Poonch sector, along the LoC, it’s a largely symbolic strike because at this time of the year forward launch pads and militant camps are empty and non-functional,” he said.
In another tweet, he said, “Unless we know which Bala Kote is being talked about by the Pakistani Generals, it is pointless speculating about what we may have hit and what fallout the airstrike will have.”
However, contradicting India’s claim, spokesperson of Pakistan Armed Forces, Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted: “Indian aircraft’s intrusion across LoC in Muzaffarabad Sector within AJ&K was 3-4 miles. Under forced hasty withdrawal aircraft released payload which had free fall in the open area. No infrastructure got hit, no casualties. Technical details and other important information to follow.”