In swift retaliation to the dastardly Pulwama terror attack, the Indian Air Force breached Pakistani air space in the early hours on Tuesday and dropped 500kg and 1000kg laser-guided bombs on terror launch pads in Balakot, Chakothi and Muazaffarabad in Pakistan. The target in Balakot was the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed, the outfit which claimed responsibility for the Pulwama suicide bombing. This location was being run by Yousuf Azhar, brother-in-law of Jaish-e-Mohammed's chief Masood Azhar, who was killed in the bomb run by IAF's Mirage 2000 fighter jets.
"In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot... This facility in Balakot was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar (alias Ustad Ghouri), the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, chief of JeM," Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in his briefing earlier today.
However, Gokhale did not say if Yousuf was killed in the attack or not. Azhar was one of the terrorists who hijacked the Indian Airline flight IC 814 to Kandhar in 1999. In 2000, Interpol issued a red corner notice against him after the hijacking on request from the CBI. His name was in the list of 20 fugitives New Delhi handed to Islamabad in 2002.
Moreover, the training camps hit today were jointly run by Jaish-e-Mohammed, Laskar-e-Toiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and housed terrorists in numbers. In his briefing, Gokhale said "a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated" in the bombing of Balakot training camp. While the government is waiting for IAF to confirm the exact number of terrorists killed in the action, sources have reported that the casualties can run in the range of 200-300. Gokhley further assured that the targets were selected to minimise civilian casualties.
"The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties. The facility is located in thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence. As the strike has taken place only a short while ago, we are awaiting further details," he said.
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