India carried out “non-military, pre-emptive air strikes” across the Line of Control early this morning to target the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which was planning more attacks in the country after Pulwama, the government said on Tuesday. India struck the biggest camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and a “very large number” of terrorists were eliminated, said Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale.
Hours after India confirmed the air strikes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a rally in Rajasthan’s Churu: “I assure you, the country is in safe hands.”
Some 300 terrorists were killed in the Indian Air Force strike at around 3.30 am, top government sources have told NDTV. Twelve Mirage 2000 fighter jets dropped 1,000 kg bombs on the camp at Balakot. India will brief major world powers about Tuesday’s air strikes.
“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,” the Foreign Secretary said.
The “facility at Balakot”, located in the thick forests and on a hilltop, was headed by Maulana Yousouf Azhar, or Ustad Gouri, the brother-in-law of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar. A large number of terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis planning terror strikes were eliminated, said the Foreign Secretary. Sources say India may release a video of the strike.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed was responsible for the February 14 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, in which 40 soldiers were killed.
“Credible intelligence was received that Jaish-e-Mohammed was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country and fidayeen jihadis (suicide bombers) were being trained for this purpose,” the Foreign Secretary said.
“India has given proof many times seeking action against Jaish-e-Mohammed and others at terror camps so big, that they can train hundreds of jihadis and terrorists at any given time. But due to Pakistan’s inaction, this step was necessary and had to be taken,” he asserted.
The strikes were “100 per cent successful” and went on “exactly as planned”, sources had told NDTV in the morning. PM Modi met with top ministers in the cabinet committee on security at his home in Delhi, after which Home Minister Rajnath Singh flashed a thumbs-up sign at reporters.
PM Modi later briefed President Ram Nath Kovind.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said: “This was grave aggression by India against Pakistan. This is a violation of LoC and Pakistan has the right to retaliate and self defence”.
India will brief major world powers about Tuesday’s air strikes.
Soon after the Pulwama terror attack, India had appealed to the international community to back the naming of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a “UN designated terrorist”.
“The military has taken this necessary step for the country’s security. It was an act of extreme valour. PM Modi had earlier given the armed forces the freedom to take action. Today, the entire country is with the forces,” Union Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters.
On September 29, 2016, the army had carried out surgical strikes on seven terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) in retaliation to an attack on its base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri earlier that month.