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The men behind the air strike: How and when the decision to hit Balakot was taken

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New Delhi, Feb 27: There were only a handful of top people who knew about the air strike that was to be carried out at Balakot. While several officials were part of the decision making process, the final plan was known only to seven persons.

 A Pakistani soldier stands guard in the area where Indian jets strike in Jaba near Balakot, in Pakistan

They included the Prime Minister, 3 service chiefs, the chief of the Research and Analysis Wing and head of the Intelligence Bureau. All high level discussions were held between these persons and it was finally decided that the Indian Air Force would hit the Balakot training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

How the Sukhoi 30 acted as a decoy as the Mirages struck at BalakotHow the Sukhoi 30 acted as a decoy as the Mirages struck at Balakot

High placed officials tell OneIndia that it was important that India struck soon. The element of surprise was also the key to such a strike. After all Pakistan had placed its military on a state of very high alert in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack.

India did not want to undertake a run of the mill strike. India wanted to strike hard and strike deep. The Research and Analysis Wing was asked to identify the camps of the Jaish-e-Mohammad. After chasing five targets, Balakot was finally zeroed in on as it was the JeM's top training facility.

The Balakot camp is located in a dense forest and the campus spreads over 7 acres. Further it also made for an ideal target as any strike here would not result in civilian casualties. During the high-level deliberations, the seven persons involved in the decision making process also decided that the intention was self defence against acts of terror. At any cost the IAF would not target the military installations of Pakistan and neither the civilians.

With the Balakot air strike, India not only avenged Pulwama, but Kandahar as wellWith the Balakot air strike, India not only avenged Pulwama, but Kandahar as well

The final preparation for the strike began on February 22 onwards. While it was decided that the Mirage 2000 would strike, the Sukhoi 30s MKI were deployed as a decoy. The intelligence report suggested that almost all the JeM terrorists had been pulled out of Pakistan occupied Kashmir and were being lodged in the Balakot training facility.

It was reported by the intelligence that there were nearly 350 terrorists in the camp on February 25. Once this information was confirmed, the go ahead for the strike was given. The air strike took place on February 26 starting 3.30 am onwards.

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