Indian Air Force jets dropped bombs on terror camp in Balakot across the Line of Control.
NEW DELHI:India carried out "non-military, pre-emptive air strikes" across the Line of Control in a pre-dawn operation targeting the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which was planning more attacks in the country after Pulwama, the government said on Tuesday. Indian Air Force fighter jets struck the biggest camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, killing over 300 terrorists including Jaish chief Masood Azhar's brother-in-law.
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."
Around 3.30 am, 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets crossed the Line of Control and dropped 1,000 kg bombs on the vast terror training facility at Balakot, which was the hub of suicide attack training, said government sources. Several terrorists, trainers and Jaish commanders planning terror strikes in India were killed, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said.
"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," he said.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired an emergency meeting, after which Islamabad said in a statement: "India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing."
The Balakot camp, located in the thick forests and on a hilltop, was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar, or Ustad Ghouri, the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar. Yousuf Azhar was one of the terrorists involved in the 1999 IC-814 hijack.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed was responsible for the February 14 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, in which 40 soldiers were killed. A day later, at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security chaired by PM Modi, it was decided that India needs to send a strong message.
"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 said, adding that the planes returned without a scratch.
India has started the process of briefing 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".
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.
This morning, the Indian Air Force crossed the Line of Control for the first time since 1971.