Explained: This day that year, when India hit Pakistan at Balakot
New Delhi, Feb 26: Indian Air Force Chief, R K S Bhadauria, will today visit a front line base in Kashmir that launched fighter planes to engaged the Pakistan Air Force a day after India hit a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror facility at Balakot.
The visit by the Air Chief is aimed at commemorating the Balakot strikes and also the air action the following day. A seminar will also be organised in Delhi and the same would be themed, IAF's role in No war, No Peace.
In a pinpointed and swift air strike that lasted less than two minutes, India pounded Jaish-e-Mohammed's biggest training camp in Pakistan, killing up to 350 terrorists and trainers who were moved there for their protection after the Pulwama attack.
The pre-dawn operation, described as "non-military" and "preemptive", struck a five-star resort style camp on a hilltop forest that provided Indian forces with a "sitting duck target" and caught the terrorists in their sleep, sources said.
I want to assure the people that the country is in safe hands. There is nothing above the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in a public rally in Churu, Rajasthan, in his first remarks after the strike.
The then Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told the media the "intelligence-led operation" on the Pakistan-based terror group's biggest training camp in Balakot became "absolutely necessary" as it was planning more suicide attacks in India, after the February 14 attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama in which 40 soldiers were killed. The JeM claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack.
Gokhale said the camp was located in Balakot but did not elaborate further. Sources said the reference was to the town in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80 km from the Line of Control and near Abbotabad where Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in hiding by covert US forces.
This was the first time since the 1971 war that India has used air power against Pakistan.
India received intelligence that the JeM had shifted many in-training terrorists and hardcore operatives, along with their trainers, to the camp, about 20 km from Balakot town, which has facilities for 500 to 700 people and even a swimming pool, sources said.
In a synchronised operation, fighter and other aircraft took off from several air bases in Western and Central commands at about the same time, leaving Pakistani defence officials confused about where they were heading, they said.
A small group of aircraft broke away from the swarm and headed to Balakot where "the sleeping terrorists were sitting ducks for the Indian bombing", said one source.
The entire operation, it is learnt, was over in 20 minutes, starting at 3.45 am and ending at 4.05 am.
"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," Gokhale had told the media.
"In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated," he said, stressing that care was taken to avoid civilian casualties.
At least 325 terrorists and 25 to 27 trainers were at the camp.
The facility at Balakot, located in a thick forest on a hilltop far from civilian presence, was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar, alias Ustad Ghouri, the brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar, he said, reading out from a statement.