India carried out pre-dawn, preemptive air strikes across the Line of Control to target the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, which was planning more attacks in the country after Pulwama, the government said on Tuesday. “India struck the biggest camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot and a large number of terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis planning terror strikes were eliminated,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said.
The Foreign Secretary said India’s “non-military preemptive action” was specifically targeted at the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp. The terror group was responsible for the February 14 terror attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama, in which 40 soldiers were killed.
“Credible intelligence was received that Jaish-e-Mohammed was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country and Fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose,” he said.
“India has given proof many times seeking action against Jaish-e-Mohammed and others at terror camps so big, that they can train hundreds of jihadis and terrorists at any given time. But due to Pakistan’s inaction, this step was necessary and had to be taken,” he said.
At around 3:30 this morning, 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets of the Indian Air Force dropped 1,000 kg bombs on terror camps of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen.
“The military has taken this necessary step for the country’s security. It was an act of extreme valour. PM Modi had earlier given the armed forces the freedom to take action. Today, the entire country is with the forces,” Union Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters in the first official acknowledgement of the operation.
Pakistan claimed that the “no infrastructure was hit” and tried to downplay the impact. “Indian aircrafts’ intrusion across LOC in Muzaffarabad Sector within AJ&K was 3-4 miles. Under forced hasty withdrawal aircrafts released payload which had free fall in open area. No infrastructure got hit, no casualties,” tweeted Major General Asif Ghafoor of the Inter-Services Public Relations.
The Air Force has put on high alert all air defence systems along the international border and the Line of Control, the news agency reported.
India carried out the strikes two weeks after the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, in which over 40 soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed when a suicide bomber of the Jaish-e-Mohammed exploded a car full of bombs next to a security convoy.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is led by Masood Azhar, had claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack and had also posted videos of the bomber, who had joined the terror group a year ago.
On September 29, 2016, the army had carried out surgical strikes on seven terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) in retaliation to an attack on its base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri earlier that month.