06 | DIC | 2019
India launches air strike inside Pakistan territory
People attend a candlelight vigil to pay tribute to Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel who were killed after a suicide bomber rammed a car into the bus carrying them in south Kashmir - Photo: Anushree Fadnavis/REUTERS

India launches air strike inside Pakistan territory

26/02/2019
15:13
Reuters
Balakot, Pakistan/New Delhi, India
Abu Arqam Naqash & Sanjeev Miglani
-A +A
The strikes on a training camp run by a Pakistani-based militant group have dramatically escalated tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors, who have fought three wars against each other

 An Indian air strike in Pakistani territory killed 300 suspected militants, a senior Indian government source said on Tuesday. But no evidence was provided to back up the claims of casualties.

The strikes on a training camp run by a Pakistani-based militant group have dramatically escalated tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors, who have fought three wars against each other.

Although Pakistan officials denied there had been casualties, they said it would respond at a time and place of its choice, with a military spokesman even alluding to its nuclear arsenal, highlighting the escalation in hostile rhetoric from both two sides since a suicide bombing in Kashmir this month.

The spokesman said a command and control authority meeting, which decides over the use of nuclear weapons, had been convened for Wednesday, adding: “You all know what that means.”

The air strike near Balakot, a town 50 km (30 miles) from the frontier, was the deepest cross-border raid launched by India since the last of its three wars with Pakistan in 1971 but there were competing claims about the damage it caused.

The Indian government, facing an election in the coming months, said the air strikes hit a training camp belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the group that claimed the suicide car bomb attack that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir on February 14.

“The existence of such training facilities, capable of training hundreds of jihadis, could not have functioned without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said. Pakistan denies harboring JeM.

Pakistani officials dismissed the Indian claims, saying the Indian aircraft had dropped their bombs in a wooded area, causing no damage or casualties.

Villagers near the town of Balakot were shaken from their sleep by the air strikes. They said only one person was wounded in the attack and they knew of no fatalities.

JeM is a primarily anti-India group that forged ties with al Qaeda and has been on a U.N. terrorist list since 2001. In December 2001, Jaish fighters, along with members of another Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked India’s parliament, which almost led to a fourth war.

There has been mounting impatience in India to avenge the February 14 attack, which was the most deadly seen in Kashmir during an insurgency that has last three decades, and as news of the raid broke, celebrations erupted across the country.

“I want to assure you our country is in safe hands,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said to cheers at a rally in western India hours after the raid. “I won’t let the country down.”

Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC), comprising top officials including Prime Minister Imran Khan and army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, said Khan would “engage with global leadership to expose irresponsible Indian policy”. It also warned that “Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing” to Indian aggression.

Indian and Pakistan troops exchanged gunfire along several sectors of their contested border in Kashmir later on Tuesday and local officials on the Pakistani side said at least four people had been killed and seven wounded.

Giving the Pakistan military’s account of the Indian incursion, spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said Pakistani aircraft were patrolling and identified Indian jets on the Indian side of the border near Okara and Lahore in Punjab as well as Muzaffarabad where they crossed and were engaged. They left Pakistani airspace after only four minutes.

He denied the incursion had caused any damage, saying there was no debris, “not even a single brick” and no casualties.

“You have proved you are not a democracy, you have chosen the path of war,” he said, addressing his remarks to India.
 

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