India has carried out a “non-military, preemptive action” against a major terror camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot, Ministry of External Affairs secretary Vijay Gokhale said on Tuesday.
“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,” Gokhale said at a press briefing in New Delhi.
In an operation that began in the early hours today, Gokhale said, a large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders were eliminated. The camp was run by Maulana Yousuf Azhar, the brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar.
“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. The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties,” Gokhale added.
According to news agency ANI, the Indian Air Force used Mirage 2000 fighters in the operation across the Line of Control. Earlier in the day, Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor claimed Indian aircraft “intruded from Muzaffarabad sector” and “dropped a payload” near Balakot “facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force”.
ANI reports, quoting sources in the Indian Air Force, said at 0330 hours on February 26, a squadron of Mirage 2000 Indian Fighter jets struck a major terrorist camp across the LoC and completely destroyed it. The IAF source further told ANI that 1000-kg bombs were dropped, adding that 12 Mirage 2000 jets took part in the operation.
Meanwhile, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg. PM Modi also chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security.
Today’s airstrike in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir is the first time Indian Air Force has been used in Pakistan-controlled air space after the 1971 war. During the 1999 Kargil conflict, the Vajpayee government had decided to restrict the use of IAF to India’s own side of LoC. IAF had used Mirage 2000 to fire laser-guided bombs, fixed hastily when the Kargil conflict was on, to target Pakistani posts on the mountains of Kargil.
The capability to fix and hit the target, both during day and night and even in cloudy weather, was demonstrated by the IAF in Exercise Vayu Shakti earlier this month in Jaisalmer. The firepower demonstration had showcased capabilities which were way beyond those used during the Kargil War.
Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was the first to tweet on the attacks from the government’s side. Opposition leaders Congress president Rahul Gandhi and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal tweeted saluting the armed forces. The strike comes just days after 40 CRPF personnel were killed when a Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into a bus carrying paramilitary forces in Jammu Kashmir’s Pulwama district.