New Delhi: The anti-terror operations by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on early Tuesday morning, targeting camps of dreaded terror outfit—Jaish-e-Mohammad—in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is said to have targetted nearly 300 terrorists.
“IAF strike at JeM terror camps in Balakot across the Line of Control was intelligence based counter-terror strike and not a military action. IAF demolished the entire terror set up at the suicide bombing training center in Balakot, and over 300 terrorists were targeted in the IAF operation by IAF,” said the Intelligence sources.
“Maulana Ammar, who is associated with Afghanistan and Kashmir operations, and Maulana Talha Saif, brother of Maulana Masood Azhar and head of suicide bomber preparation wing, were targeted by the IAF,” they said. “Mufti Azhar Khan Kashmiri, head of Kashmir operations, and Ibrahim Azhar, elder brother of Masood Azhar were also targetted,” they added.
In the pictures provided by the Intelligence sources, flags of the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel painted on staircases can be seen in the JeM facility destroyed by IAF jets in Balakot.
Stating that surgical strike to target terror camps was not possible, sources said: “The entire strike to decimate training centers was concluded within minutes. The permanent establishment of trainers destroyed in Balakot.”
“A surgical strike was not possible due to difficult terrain, dense forests, and the steep hills. The ammunition dump blown up today in Balakot by IAF Mirages had more than 200 AK rifles, uncountable rounds of hand grenades, explosives, and detonators. This was in favor of the covert operation to protect India’s sovereign rights.”
After the IAF hit terror camps in Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security to take stock of the situation. The meeting was attended by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
IAF’s strike at terror camps in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province comes 12 days after the dreaded terror outfit—Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)—carried out a debilitating attack on the 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.”
“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 organization 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 organization, 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 with 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.”