NEW DELHI. India has said that a non-military pre-emptive strike, specifically targeted at the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) camp in Balakot, Pakistan, was conducted by the Indian Air Force early Tuesday morning after credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country.
Fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in a statement on February 26. Tuesday’s strike was necessary to pre-empt further attacks against India, he said.
Gokhale emphasised that JeM was responsible for the Pulwama attack on February 14, when terrorists attacked a CRPF convoy in Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir with IED explosives, leading to the death of 40 CRPF personnel. Gunshots were reported from the scene after the blast occurred.
The Pulwama suicide attack is said to be the worst terror strike on security personnel since the Uri attack in September 2016, when four heavily armed terrorists targeted an army brigade headquarters, resulting in more than 17 casualties.
“In the face of imminent danger, a pre-emptive strike became absolutely necessary,” Gokhale said. “In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of today, India hit the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. 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 JeM chief Masood Azhar,” he said.
“JeM has been active in Pakistan for the last two decades, and is led by Masood Azhar with its headquarters in Bahawalpur. This organisation, which is proscribed by the UN, has been responsible for a series of terrorist attacks including on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and the Pathankot airbase in January 2016,” the Indian official said.
The foreign secretary said that information regarding the location of training camps in Pakistan and PoJK was provided to Pakistan from time to time. “The existence of such massive training facilities capable of training hundreds of jihadis could not have functioned without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities,” Gokhale said.
India has been repeatedly urging Pakistan to take action against the JeM to prevent jihadis from being trained and armed inside Pakistan. Pakistan has taken no concrete action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil, he said. “The selection of the target was conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties. The facility is located in thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence,” he added.
Gokhale reminded 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.”