According to informed sources, the fighter planes dropped a payload of about 1,000 kilograms on the target in the pre-dawn operation, completely destroying it.
Almost ten Mirage -2000 fighter aircraft in the early hours of Tuesday morning entered the Pakistan Air space and struck the Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp across the LoC in Balakot, in what the New Delhi described as a “non-military.
According to informed sources, the fighter planes dropped a payload of about 1,000 kilograms on the target in the pre-dawn operation, completely destroying it. “These training camps are deep inside, and Balakot was the perfect target which needed to be destroyed,” explained a senior officer on condition of anonymity. The strikes were carried out at Balakot, which is around 25 Kms northwest of Muzaffarabad.
At Balakot there are joint training camps of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen which were targeted. 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,” said the foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale on Tuesday morning.
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 of JeM.
According to him, information regarding the location of training camps in Pakistan and PoJK has been provided to Pakistan from time to time. However, the neighbouring country has been denying the fact that the terrorists groups are using their soil for acts against India.
These training facilities have the capability of training hundreds of Jihadis, something which could not have been done without the knowledge of Pakistan.
New Delhi has been repeatedly urging Pakistan to take action against the JeM to prevent jihadis from being trained and armed inside that country. However, Pakistan has taken no concrete actions to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil.
Sources have indicated that today’s attack took place as the intelligence gathered has observed 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 pre-emptive strike became absolutely necessary,” the foreign secretary added.
Justifying the early morning attack, Gokhale said that “The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism. Hence this non-military pre-emptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp.”
“The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties. The facility is located in 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.”
It is important to note that 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. And India has been expecting 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.
Responding to a question on why there is confusion over one or three targets, a senior officer said that, “The fact is that IAF struck at the terrorists’ camps inside Balakot. Don’t get into number of targets. The main target is Balakot, the most critical target as that’s where the militants were getting their training.”
This was the first time IAF jets entered Pakistan airspace since the 1971 war between the two countries. According to experts, there is a specific reason Mirages were used for the operation.
As for whether Muzaffarabad or Chakoti, it does not matter much. “Muzaffarabad is the District Headquarters and has dense population and Chakoti there is nothing much. The point is that IAF has managed to intrude their airspace and cause damage. That should be the focus,” the officer quoted above said.
Talking about the terrorists’ infrastructure that was destroyed, one source confirmed that the training camps were not emptied earlier but the launch pads had been emptied.
Tensions between India and Pakistan since that attack have escalated. And the Government has been taking briefings from the three services about their preparedness. Sources have confirmed the Indian Air Force Chief Dhanoa had briefed the PMO about its preparedness.
The first information about the strikes came from the enemy side –a tweet by Pakistan’s Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations, Major-General Asif Ghafoor.
It said: “Indian Air Force violated Line of Control”, following which “Pakistan Air Force immediately scrambled” and Indian aircraft went back.”
A bit later he tweeted again saying that the aircraft faced “timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force” and ended up releasing “payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot”. No casualties or damage occurred, the Pakistani military spokesperson added.
Data available on websites tracking planes indicated that an early warning aircraft of the IAF along with an IL-78 refueler was up in the air around the time the incident was reported.