In a pre-dawn strike on Tuesday, the Indian Air Force (IAF) destroyed the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Pakistan’s Balakot avenging the 14 February Pulwama terror attack that left 44 CRPF jawans dead.
The air strike, executed with surgical precision by 12 IAF Mirage 2000 fighter jets, killed 300 terrorists and sent the Pakistani establishment in a huddle.
In a statement released earlier today, the MEA said that “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,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said.
Two of the top terrorists killed were brothers of JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar.
According to reports, the key JeM terrorists killed in the air strike today include Maulana Ammar, Maulana Talha Saif, Mufti Azhar Khan Kashmiri and Ibrahim Azhar.
One of the brothers, Talha Saif, was the head of the preparation wing of the JeM. The other, Ibrahim Azhar, was also involved in the 1999 hijacking of IC-814 along with Yousuf Azhar.
Maulana Ammar was a top JeM operative associated with Afghanistan and Kashmir while Azhar Khan Kashmiri was the head of the terror group’s Kashmir operations.
Yousuf Zhar was on Interpol lookout notice since 2000.
The IC-814 hijacking incident, which lasted seven days, ended with the release of three terrorists – Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mulana Masood Azhar.
IAF Mirage 2000 fighter jets on Tuesday dropped multiple 1000 kg laser-guided bombs on JeM camo in Balakot in a mission that lasted 21 minutes. Balakot is in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Also targeted were terror camps and launch pads in Chakothi and Muzaffarabad in Pak-occupied Kashmir. This was the first time the IAF fighter jets struck any territory beyond Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) since the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, a day after the attack, assured the nation of a strong response to Pakistan.
“Our neighbouring country has forgotten that this is a new India. The barbarity displayed by the terror groups and their masters will not go unpunished,” the PM had said at a rally in Jhansi.
Rattled by the IAF air strike, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan directed Pakistan’s armed forces and citizens to “remain prepared for all eventualities”.
He also chaired a meeting of National Security Committee (NSC) which was attended by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan and other military and civilian officials, including cabinet members.
In a statement following the meeting, the NSC said in a statement that “Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing”.