New Delhi Correspondent
In a swift and precise operation, Indian Air Force fighter jets on Tuesday carried out a “non-military, pre-emptive air strikes” deep inside Pakistan destroying the biggest terror camp of terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed leaving up to 350 terrorists dead.
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay K Gokhale told a media briefing here that the strikes were absolutely necessary because of the “imminent dangers” posed by Jaish which was planning more suicide attacks across India after the Pulwama attack that left 40 Indian paramilitary personnel dead on February 14.
He said India struck the biggest camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot and a very large number of terrorists were eliminated. “There was very credible intelligence info that JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed) was planning to carry out terror strikes across India, thereby making this strike absolutely necessary. It was a non-military pre-emptive strike. India has decided to take action against any terror threat to it,” he said.
The Balakot terror camp is located 20km from Balakot town which is some 80km from the de facto border near Abbotabad where Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in hiding by U.S. marines.
A large number of terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis planning terror strikes were eliminated, said the Indian Foreign Secretary. He said the “facility at Balakot”, located in a thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence, was headed by Yousouf Azhar, or Ustad Gouri, brother-in-law of Jaish chief Masood Azhar.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the February 14 terror attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama, in which 40 soldiers were killed.
Indian government sources said the first strike took place at 3:45 am, the second at 3:48 am and the third at 3:58 am. The whole operation was over within 19 minutes.
Gokhale said “very credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country and the fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose. In the face of imminent danger, a pre-emptive strike (by India) became absolutely necessary.”
He said information regarding the location of training camps in Pakistan and PoK has been provided to Pakistan from time to time. Pakistan, however, denies their existence. The existence of such massive training facilities capable of training hundreds of jidhadis could not have functioned without the knowledge of Pakistan authorities, Gokhale added.

India has been repeatedly urging Pakistan to take action against the JeM to prevent jihadis from being trained and armed inside Pakistan which, however, has taken no concrete actions to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil, the Foreign Secretary said.
The reports of the IAF operation was revealed by Pakistan’s Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations, Major-General Asif Ghafoor in a series of tweets. “Indian aircraft intruded from Muzafarabad sector. Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot. No casualties or damage,” Ghafoor tweeted.
JeM has been active in Pakistan for the last two decades and is led by Masood Azhar with its headquarters in Bahawalpur. The outfit, which is proscribed by the UN, has been responsible of a series of terrorist attacks including on Indian parliament in December 2001 and the Pathankot airbase in January 2016, the Foreign Secretary said.
Gokhale said, “This non-military preemptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp.” “The selection of the target was also 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 said.
Indian government sources said a dozen French Mirage 2000 fighter jets pounded JeM terror camps in Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Chakoti with laster bombs totally weighing 1,000kg in well-planned strike that last for 90 seconds.
At least 325 terrorists and 25 to 27 trainers were at the Balakot camp, the biggest operated by Jaish-e-Mohammad which claimed responsibility for the February 14 suicide attack on the convoy of Indian paramilitary men in Pulwama.
“Everyone at the Balakot camp was sleeping and Pakistani defence establishment had no clue that the attack was coming so deep into their country because they had expected a surgical strike on camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir near the Line of Control,” according to the sources.
They said India received intelligence that JeM had shifted many under-training terrorists and hardcore operatives, along with their trainers, to the Balakot camp which has facilities for 500 to 700 people and even has a swimming pool along with cooks and cleaners.
The Indian Air Force combat and other aircraft took off from several air bases in western and central commands at about the same time, leaving Pakistani defence officials confused as to where they were heading, said the sources. A small group of aircraft broke away from the others and headed to Balakot where “the sleeping terrorists were sitting ducks for the Indian bombing,” said one source adding “they had no idea that Balakot was to be the target … when the pictures come in you will see only khandhar (ruins) of the once-flourishing camp”.
Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the operation. Hours later, Prime Minister Modi chaired a meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security which was attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Sitharaman.
After the Pulwama attack, Modi announced that the armed forces have been given full freedom to respond to the strike.
In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi accused India of having violated the de facto border and Pakistan has a right to respond. “First, they committed aggression against Pakistan today. It is a violation of the Line of Control and Pakistan has right to give a suitable response in self defence,” he said after an “emergency meeting” with high-level officials at the Foreign Office for consultations.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan said his country’s army will decide the time and place of retaliation to the Indian action.
Hours after India carried out air strikes on terror camps in Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country is in safe hands and that he will not let the country down. He said nothing was above the nation. “Today is a day to pay homage to India’s brave-hearts. I want to assure you that the country is in safe hands,” he said at a public rally in Churu in Rajasthan state. “I vow that I will not let the country bow down,” he said in Hindi.
“I want to repeat what I said in 2014 – “Sougandh mujhe is mitti ki, main desh nahin mitne doonga, main desh nahi rukne dunga, main desh nahi jhukne dunga … …mera vachan hai Bharat maa ko, tera sheesh nahi jhukne doonga” (In the name of the land of this country, I won’t allow the country to be stamped out. I won’t allow the country to stop, I won’t allow the country to bow),” Modi said in his first public comments on the air strikes.
Hours after India carried out air strikes on terror camps in Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country is in safe hands and that he will not let the country down. He said nothing was above the nation. “Today is a day to pay homage to India’s brave-hearts. I want to assure you that the country is in safe hands,” he said at a public rally in Churu in Rajasthan state. “I vow that I will not let the country bow down,” he said in Hindi.
“I want to repeat what I said in 2014 – “Sougandh mujhe is mitti ki, main desh nahin mitne doonga, main desh nahi rukne dunga, main desh nahi jhukne dunga … …mera vachan hai Bharat maa ko, tera sheesh nahi jhukne doonga” (In the name of the land of this country, I won’t allow the country to be stamped out. I won’t allow the country to stop, I won’t allow the country to bow),” Modi said in his first public comments on the air strikes.
India’s pre-emptive strikes on terror camps in Pakistan were hailed by leaders of various Indian political parties with ruling BJP asserting that Prime Minister Modi’s political will has made the difference while opposition Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lauded the Indian Air Force.
“Every Indian who had the pain and anguish of the martyrdom of our forces is greatly relieved and delighted this morning. Salute to the Air Force for a meticulous operation. Our forces are world class anyway. It is the political will of our PM and team that made all the difference,” BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said.
Lauding the pilots of the Indian Air Force after air strikes on Pakistan, Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “I salute the pilots of the IAF.” The Congress party also tweeted, hailing the role of the Indian Air Force in keeping Indians safe with its consistent and determined effort.
BJP leader and India’s Human Resources Minister Prakash Javdekar told reporters that people of Indian stood solidly behind their armed forces as he described the IAF strikes as an act of great valour. He said such a step was needed for India’s security. “We congratulate our military for such a powerful act of bravery, people trust Modi ji. The armed forces carried out a very strong and necessary step for the defence of our country…it was an act of ‘maha parakram’ (great valour).”
“Conspirators of the Pulwama attack were killed within 100 hours and Pakistan’s ‘most favoured nation’ status was withdrawn. Besides, 200 per cent duty was imposed (on import of goods from Pakistan), a decision was taken to withdraw the security provided to separatists and it was also decided to stop India’s share of water to Pakistan,” he said.
Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati said: “IAF strike destroying terrorist camps across LoC is welcome action. Salute and respect to their bravery. PM Modi gave free hand to army only after Pulwama attack. Had it been earlier Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama like tragedy and loss of precious lives of jawans could have been averted.”
BJP chief Amit Shah says: “I congratulate and salute the bravery and valour of our armed forces. Today’s action further demonstrates that India is safe and secure under the strong and decisive leadership of PM Narendra Modi.”