Balakot air strike anniversary: One year since IAF jets crossed border to target JeM camp
The Balakot air strike was a non-military preemptive action, specifically targeting the JeM camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
India observed the first anniversary of the Balakot air strikes on February 26, 2020. The airstrikes were carried out by the Indian Air Force in retaliation to the deadly Pulwama terror attack.
In the early morning hours of February 26, 2019, fighter jets of the Indian Air Force crossed the line of control and bombed a large Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp near Balakot town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
The air strike was first announced by the Pakistani military, which denied any damage and stated that Indian planes had dropped their bombs in an uninhabited area near Balakot. India confirmed the attack later on the same day stating that a large number of terrorists and their trainers were killed in the covert military operation.
What did India carry out air strike in Balakot?
The Indian Air Force carried out the Balakot air strikes to avenge the Pulwama terror attack, which took place on February 14, 2019. The Pulwama suicide attack had targeted an Indian Army convoy and killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district.
Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) had claimed the responsibility of the attack. In response, India in an intelligence-led operation targeted the largest training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot.
Balakot air strike: Everything you need to know!
The IAF fighter jets crossed the LoC in the early hours of February 26 and dropped their payload on the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The facility was reported to be headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar.
IAF’s Mirage-2000 jets were deployed in the mission to drop laser-guided bombs, which weighed about 1000 kg. The mission is reported to have an estimated casualty of 200-300 terrorists.
According to the official statement, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers and senior commanders were reportedly eliminated during the operation.
Indian foreign secretary confirmed that the Balakot air strike was a non-military preemptive action, specifically targeting the JeM camp.
The particular camp was also selected as India wanted to avoid civilian casualties. The camp was located in a thickly forested area on a hilltop, far away from civilian presence.
How did Pakistan respond?
Though Pakistan had denied any loss of life or property, the attack created a tense situation at the border. Just a day later, on February 27, Pakistan retaliated by sending its fighter jets across LoC.
This led to a dogfight between Indian and Pakistani fighter jets and an Indian warplane was shot down and its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was taken prisoner by the Pakistani Army.
The Wing Commander was finally released by Pakistan as a ‘gesture of peace’ on March 1, 2019 after intense diplomatic pressure over violation of the Vienna convention.
The air strikes were the first time since the 1971 India-Pakistan war that warplanes from either nation crossed the line of control.