Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security at Lok Kalyan Marg hours after India had carried out pre-dawn air strikes on terror camps across the Line of Control on Tuesday.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj were at the meeting, apart from National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and other officials.
In a 21-minute offensive, 12 Mirage 2000 jets carried out the strike at around 3.30 am and dropped 1000 Kg bombs on terror camps across LOC, completely destroying it. Indian Air Force (IAF) sources were quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) control rooms were also reportedly destroyed.
The IAF jets struck terror camps and launch pads across the LoC in Balakot at around 3.45 am, Muzaffarabad at around 3.48 am and Chakoti at around 3.58 am.
The camp in Balakot was led by Maulana Yusuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghauri, brother-in-law of JeM Chief Masood Azhar. Yusuf Azhar was on the Interpol list and among the most wanted in India.
One of the targets destroyed by Indian fighter jets was reportedly in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area. Strikes in the region were based on locations provided by on-ground intelligence sources.
According to a report by NDTV, the IAF strike has led to 200-300 casualties on the Pakistani side.
According to sources quoted by ANI, Pakistani F16s were scrambled to retaliate against IAF Mirage 2000s but turned back due to the size of Indian formation. Western Air Command coordinated the operation.
Laser guided bombs were reportedly used for the assault.
The 12 Mirage 2000 jets that participated in the operation have returned safely, reports said.
Following the attack, the Indian Air Force has put on high alert across all air defence systems along the international border and LoC to respond to any possible action by the Pakistan Air Force.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has summoned an emergency meeting to review the situation after Indian Air Force strikes.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan Armed Forces spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor had claimed Indian aircraft crossed over from the “Muzaffarabad sector” and released payload near Balakot “in haste” after facing “effective response from Pakistan Air Force”.
Ghafoor made the claim in his three tweets posted on Tuesday morning.
“Indian Air Force violated Line of Control. Pakistan Air Force immediately scrambled. Indian aircrafts gone back. Details to follow,” Ghafoor’s first tweet read.
He further added soon: “Indian aircrafts intruded from Muzaffarabad sector. Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot. No casualties or damage.”
In another tweet posted at 8.41 am, Ghafoor shared four photographs and said the payload dropped by “hastily escaping Indian aircrafts” fell in an open area.
Payload of hastily escaping Indian aircrafts fell in open. pic.twitter.com/8drYtNGMsm
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) February 26, 2019
Reacting to the offensive, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “We acted in 100 hours after the Pulwama terror attack. Today’s action had to be taken. People have trust in Modi ji. This step was important. Modi ji gave freedom to Army to act”.
The Prime Minister had in many of his public speeches after the attack, said that the security forces have been given full freedom to decide the future course of action regarding the terrorist attack in Pulwama.
The development comes amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan following the 14 February suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir in which 44 jawans were killed. Pakistan-based and supported terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the attack, which is being investigated by the NIA. Soon after the attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said security forces had been given a free hand to avenge the act.
On Monday, Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa apparently met Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan and they deliberated on the operational environment including threat and response.
Quoting Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, a PTI report said: “Both chiefs expressed satisfaction on readiness, coordination and synergy. Pakistan Armed Forces are fully prepared for a befitting response to any Indian aggression or misadventure.”