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India today said its warplanes launched a strike on militant camps in Pakistani territory that eliminated a “very large” number of jihadis amid media reports of 300 deaths in the assault while Islamabad rejected the casualty claims.


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Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told a media conference that their
preemptive strikes were carried out targeting militant camps when “a very
large number of Jen Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists, trainers, senior commanders
and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen (suicide) action
were eliminated”.

“Credible 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.

The top Indian foreign office bureaucrat added that the existence of such
training facilities, “capable of training hundreds of jihadis could not have
functioned without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities”.

Gokhale did not quote any figure but international media quoting Indian
government sources said it 300 militants were killed.

India’s premier PTI news agency said the French-made India’s Mirage 2000
fighter jets pounded JeM terror camps in Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Chakoti of
Pakistan in the well-planned predawn strike, carried out between 3:50 AM and
4:05 AM (IST).

It said defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman briefed Prime Minister Narendra
Modi on the operation and hours later, the Indian premier chaired a meeting
of Cabinet Committee on Security, joined by finance minister Arun Jaitley,
external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, home minister Rajnath Singh.

Jem had claimed to have carried out a recent suicide attack in Indian-
controlled Kashmir territory killing 40 paramilitaries earlier this month
when New Delhi vowed to retaliate.

Islamabad rejected the Indian claim that it killed many militants in an air
strike, branding it “self serving, reckless and fictitious” but admitted
Indian warplanes breached its airspace and drop a payload over Balakot in the
country’s northwest bordering India.

Pakistan claimed that its own warplanes had chased off the Indian aircraft,
which had released their “payload” in a forested area, causing no casualties
and no serious material damage.

“Indian aircrafts intruded from Muzaffarabad sector,” Pakistani military
spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a early today twitter, referring
to an area in the Pakistan-held part of Kashmir.

Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at a press conference later
in Islamabad called the violation an “uncalled for aggression to which
Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing”.

Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC), comprising top officials
including Prime Minister Imran Khan and army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, said in
a statement that it “strongly rejected Indian claim of targeting an alleged
terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties”.

The statement said Khan would engage with global leadership to “expose
irresponsible Indian policy” and warned that Islamabad shall respond at the
time and place of its choosing” to Indian aggression.

International media reports and analysts said the Indian air assaults were
the first launched across the line of control – the de facto border that
divides India-administered Kashmir from Pakistan-administered Kashmir – since
1971 war.

Balakot is in Pakistan’s north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which is
about 50 km (30 miles) from LoC, the ceasefire line that is the de facto
border in Kashmir, a Himalayan region that has been the cause of two of the
three wars India and Pakistan have fought since the end of British colonial
rule in 1947.

The strike came in less than two weeks after 46 Indian paramilitary police
were killed in a militant operation there which appeared as the deadliest
attack on Indian forces in Kashmir for decades while India said its neighbour
had had a “direct hand” in the attack and accused it of providing sanctuary
to the militants.

Pakistan denied involvement.

New Delhi had threatened to retaliate after the February 14 bombing with
premier Modi threatening a “jaw-breaking” response announcing that Indian
armed forces were given full freedom to respond to the strike.

China, meanwhile, called on the nuclear-armed neighbours to “exercise
restraint” saying it expected both India and Pakistan could “adopt actions
that will help stabilise the situation in the region and improve mutual
relations”.

“Not the other way around,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang
said.

 

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