Balakot: India 'strikes militants in Pakistani territory'

Written by on February 26, 2019

India says it launched air strikes against militants in Pakistani territory in a major escalation of tensions between the two countries.

A top Indian minister said strikes targeted a training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group in Balakot.

Pakistan said it scrambled fighter planes in response.

Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours have been strained since a suicide attack earlier this month that killed more than 40 Indian troops.

India accuses Pakistan of allowing militant groups to operate on its territory and says Pakistani security agencies played a role in the 14 February attack – claimed by JeM. Pakistan denies any role and says it does not provide safe haven to militants.

Tuesday’s air strikes are the first launched across the line of control – the de facto border that divides India-administered Kashmir from Pakistan-administered Kashmir – since a war between the two countries in 1971.

Balakot is in Pakistan’s north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Residents there told BBC Urdu they were woken by loud explosions.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told a news conference that the strikes had killed a “large number” of militants, including commanders, and had avoided civilian casualties.

“Credible intel [intelligence] was received that JeM was planning more suicide attacks in India. In the face of imminent danger, a pre-emptive strike became absolutely necessary,” he said.

Pakistan’s army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said the strikes caused no casualties. He tweeted that the Indian jets were forced to make a “hasty withdrawal” and dropped their payload in an open area.Skip Twitter post by @OfficialDGISPR

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor@OfficialDGISPR

Indian aircrafts 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.29.2K3:36 AM – Feb 26, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy18.3K people are talking about thisReport

End of Twitter post by @OfficialDGISPRSkip Twitter post 2 by @OfficialDGISPR

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Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor@OfficialDGISPR

Payload of hastily escaping Indian aircrafts fell in open.21K5:11 AM – Feb 26, 201915.6K people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacyReport

End of Twitter post 2 by @OfficialDGISPR

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not directly mention the air strikes when he addressed a political rally in Rajasthan later on Tuesday but he told cheering crowds: “I understand your enthusiasm and your energy. Today is a day we bow before our heroes.”

India is due to hold elections by the end of May.

Residents in several towns near Balakot reported hearing explosions early on Tuesday.

Mohammad Adil, a farmer in Jaba village, told BBC Urdu he and his family were woken at about 03:00 by “a huge explosion”.

“Then we heard jets flying over. We went to the place in the morning. There was a huge crater and four or five houses were destroyed,” he said.

The air strikes follow the suicide attack on an Indian security convoy in Pulwama, in Indian-administered Kashmir, earlier this month.

What happened in Pulwama?

On 14 February, 46 Indian paramilitary police were killed in a militant operation there. It was the deadliest attack on Indian forces in Kashmir for decades.

The assault was claimed by Pakistan-based JeM, and prompted a spike in tensions.

Pakistan denied involvement, while India said its neighbour had had a “direct hand” in the attack, and accused it of providing sanctuary to the militants.

kashmir map

Both India and Pakistan claim all of Muslim-majority Kashmir, but control only parts of it. The nations have fought three wars and a limited conflict since independence from Britain in 1947 – and all but one were over Kashmir.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi should “give peace a chance”. He added that if India provided “actionable intelligence” regarding the Pulwama attack that proved Pakistani involvement, “we will immediately act”.

On Saturday, Mr Modi had called on Mr Khan to join India in fighting poverty and illiteracy, instead of the pair fighting each other

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