India has conducted air strikes against a terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in a pre-dawn raid.
The offensive is seen as retaliation for the killing of 40 Indian paramilitary forces in Pulwama district in the Indian side of Kashmir in a suicide bombing claimed by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
A convoy of 78 vehicles carrying 2,500 Indian troops was targeted by terrorists with an explosives-laden car.
Today’s air strikes launched by India deep inside Pakistan’s territory are claimed to be the first across the line of control since the 1971 war.
Indian officials stated 12 IAF Mirage 2000 performed the strikes, attacking a large training camp on a hilltop where militants are undergoing training. Crews reportedly returned within minutes without any damage to the aircraft.
The Indian Government claimed the mission was a success and revealed that several JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis were killed in the operation.
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In response, Pakistan claimed that bombs were dropped on an ‘open’ site and that the strikes did not result in any casualties.
According to Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, the fresh attack was non-military and pre-emptive in nature. It carried out with specific intelligence concerning fresh strikes to be launched by JeM-trained militants across India.
In a statement, Gokhale said: “The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism. Hence, this non-military pre-emptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp. The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties.”
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned the airstrikes. Following a meeting with officials, Khan stated that the government will appropriately respond to the offensive action at the ‘place and time of its choosing’.
The Pulwama suicide-bombing and recent airstrikes in Pakistan’s territory have escalated tensions between the neighbouring countries.
In September 2016, 18 Indian troops were killed after heavily armed terrorists from Pakistan attacked 12th Brigade of the Indian Army in Uri sector. In response to this, India launched what it called ‘surgical strikes’ in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, attacking terrorist camps.