Live | IAF strikes on JeM camp in Balakot: Tri-service chiefs meet PM, NSA

A Mirage 2000 aircraft at a 'Touch and Go' exercise at Unnao district, near Lucknow on October 24, 2017.

A Mirage 2000 aircraft at a 'Touch and Go' exercise at Unnao district, near Lucknow on October 24, 2017.   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

In the early hours of Tuesday, 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF), armed with Israeli Precision Guided Munitions (PGM), took off from the Gwalior airbase and hit the largest training camp of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Balakot inside Pakistan.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale earlier in the day confirmed that India had “struck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot”.

At a press briefing, he said, “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.”

Tensions between India and Pakistan have been on the rise since the Pulwama terrorist attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. JeM had claimed responsibility for it.

Here are the latest updates:

10:20 pm

The three service chiefs met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him about the country’s preparedness to deal with any possible retaliatory action by Islamabad, official sources said.

They said Modi congratulated the service chiefs, particularly Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa for the successful operation.

Separately, the three chiefs met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and discussed overall preparation of the forces to deal with any eventualities, the sources said.

9:50 p.m

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has condemned India's "incursion". The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemns the action against an OIC founding member state, the bloc said in through a press release.

It urged India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and avoid any steps that would endanger peace and security in the region. It called upon both parties to act responsibly and encouraged them to seek peaceful solution to current crisis without resort to use of force. It also called on them to embrace dialogue and work towards de-escalation of current situation as a matter of priority.

The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents.

8.20 p.m.

Pak summons India’s diplomat

Pakistan summoned India’s acting High Commissioner in Islamabad and condemned the “violation of its territorial sovereignty” by Indian fighter jets.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said that at “approximately 02:54 hours (local time), 8 Indian aircraft were effectively intercepted by the Pakistani Air Force jets and forced” to return.

The Indian jets “randomly released their ordinance which landed in an uninhabited remote area,” it added.

“The Acting Foreign Secretary summoned the Indian Acting High Commissioner and strongly condemned the Indian violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said.

It said that the “baseless, reprehensible Indian claims of targeting a large terrorist camp and resultant causalities to placate Indian domestic audience and electioneering were strongly rebutted.”

The Acting Foreign Secretary categorically stated that Indian “aggression was a threat to regional peace and stability and would get a befitting response by Pakistan at a time and place of its choosing.”

The official also condemned the “baseless” Indian allegations against Pakistan’s involvement in the Pulwama terror attack.

8.10 p.m.

J&K parties call for de-escalation

J&K parties, including National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and People's Conference (PC) called for de-escalation between India and Pakistan in the wake of the air strikes.

“Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) hit Indian forces and claimed the attack. In turn, Indian forces hit JeM and owned that air strike. It’s now time for cooler heads to prevail. War is never an ideal option to resolve disputes. Let’s go back to the India-Saudi joint statement of last week,” said former chief minister and NC vice president Omar Abdullah.

Former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said since Pakisntan has claimed that no casualties were reported despite the Indian Air Force violating Line of Control, they (Pakistan) should adopt a reconciliatory stand as opposed to further escalation. “Or else, an already volatile situation will spiral out of control and as usual Kashmiris will be the biggest casualties,” she said.

PC chief Sajad Lone said he hoped an end to all types of violence. “Pacifist to the core, I am. But the reality as it stares in our faces is that this retaliatory action will actually be the start of the unlearning process for Pakistan. This will set the benchmark for deterrence. And eventually crowd out the cycle of violence,” said Mr. Lone.

8 p.m.

High alert sounded across Gujarat

High alert was sounded across Gujarat on Tuesday after India successfully carried out a ‘non military pre-emptive’ strike targeting training camps of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Balakot area in Pakistan.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that alert was sounded after the Air Force carried out strikes in Pakistan, targeting terror bases. 

“Gujarat is a border State and we are on high alert. We have put all the police personnel on duty and their holidays have been cancelled,” CM said after a function in Saurashtra region.

7.30 p.m.

Indian jets dropped four bombs; Pakistan will surprise India: Ghafoor

The Pakistan Army confirmed that Indian fighter jets dropped “four bombs” during an operation on Tuesday but downplayed its significance, saying the Indian attack was repulsed and that while going back the aircraft “jettisoned their payload”.

Pakistan’s military spokesperson Asif Ghafoor has said his country will “surprise” India. “Pakistan will retaliate on diplomatic, political and military fronts to India’s action,” the spokesperson said.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan told the army and people [to] get ready for any eventuality. Now it is time for India to wait for our response. We have decided. Wait for it,” Mr. Ghafoor said.

The spokesperson also denied India’s claim that 350 terrorists had been killed in the attack on the Balakot camp. “Even if there were 10 bodies, there would be blood,” he said adding that the site was open for international inspection.

Mr. Ghafoor confirmed that the payload from the Indian aircraft had landed in Balakot.

7:00 p.m.

Western Naval Command on high alert post-air strikes

In the wake of IAF’s pre-emptive airstrikes on terror camps in Pakistan, the Western Naval Command in Mumbai is on a high alert and “fully prepared” to tackle any eventualities, an official said on Tuesday.

The Mumbai Police are also on a high alert following the airstrikes, the official said.

“After the airstrikes carried out by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Pakistan in the early hours on Tuesday, the security agencies have put the city on high alert,” the official said.

“The Western Naval Command remains alert 24X7. Now, it is fully prepared to deal with any untoward situation in the wake of the airstrikes in Pakistan,” he said.

The Western Naval Command, headquartered in Mumbai, is one of the three formations of the Indian Navy. — PTI

6.45 p.m.

India briefs envoys of P-5 countries

India on Tuesday briefed envoys of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council about the IAF’s “non-military pre-emptive action” on the biggest training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack.

Sources said Foreign Secretary Vijay K. Gokhale and secretaries in the External Affairs Ministry briefed foreign envoys, including those of the five permanent members (P-5) of the United Nations Security Council — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China.

Mr. Gokhale had met around 25 envoys, including those from P-5 nations, a day after the Pulwama terror attack in which over 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed.

6.30 p.m.

Residents in Balakot thought a quake had hit the region

Residents in the quake-prone Balakot town in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on Tuesday said they were woken by “loud explosions” and thought a fresh tremor must have hit the region when Indian Air Force jets pounded a large terror-training camp.

Balakot town in Pakistan’s north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was destroyed during the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and was rebuilt with assistance from Saudi Arabia.

Residents in the mountainous area town told BBC Urdu they were woken by loud explosions. Residents in several towns near Balakot reported hearing explosions early on Tuesday.

Mohammad Adil, a farmer in Jaba village, said he and his family were woken at about 03:00 by “a huge explosion”.

He said they thought an earthquake must have hit the region.

“Then we heard jets flying over. We went to the place in the morning. There was a huge crater and four or five houses were destroyed,” he said.

Read more
 

5.45 p.m.

ECI watching developments on border

The Election commission of India held a press conference in Mumbai after a review of the election-preparedness in Maharashtra. Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa says the Commission was keeping a watch on the developments on the border.

“We are constitutionally bound to perform our duties,” said Mr. Lavasa when asked whether activities on the border would impact the timetable of general election.

5:30 p.m.

Incursion into Pak. after 1971

Tuesday’s air-strikes was a departure from the surgical strikes of 2016 where the Army’s Special Forces crossed the Line of Control (LoC) on foot and attacked terror launchpads.

This development is significant that the IAF stuck on the Pakistani soil and the PoK and it is also the first time since the 1971 war that the IAF crossed over into the Pakistani airspace. Even during the Kargil conflict, the IAF was under strict instructions from then Vajpayee-led NDA government to not cross the LoC.

Read more
 

5:15 p.m.

Yousuf Azhar was wanted by CBI in IC-814 hijacking

Yousuf Azhar, who headed the Balakot-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp destroyed by Indian fighter jets in the pre-dawn strikes, is wanted by the CBI in the IC-814 hijacking case with a pending Interpol red corner notice against him since 2000, according to officials.

The red corner notice was issued on the request of the CBI against seven accused in the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan on December 24, 1999 — Yousuf Azhar, Ibrahim Athar, Sunny Ahmed Qazi, Zahoor Ibrahim, Shahid Akhter, Sayed Shakir and Abdul Rauf, they said.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, while briefing the media in the morning on the “intelligence-led operation” on the Pakistan-based terror group’s biggest training camp in Balakot, said the facility was headed by Yousuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghouri.

Brother-in-law of Jaish chief Masood Azhar, Yousuf Azhar with red corner notice number A-565/6-2000 and Rauf with notice number A-566/6-2000 are key conspirators in the Kandahar plane hijack case.

3:30 p.m.

Pakistan vows to respond at time and place of its choosing

Pakistan says it will respond to India’s claims of strikes on targets on its territory. A statement from the National Security Committee followed within hours of Mr. Gokhale's press briefing.

“Forum concluded that India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing. To take the nation on board, the government has decided to requisition joint session of the Parliament,” states an official statement from the Pakistan government.

 

Read more
 

3:15 p.m.

Pakistan to raise issue of India’s ‘violation’ of LoC at U.N., OIC: report

Pakistan will raise the issue of India’s “violation” of the Line of Control (LoC) at the United Nations and other international forums, says a media report, quoting sources.

The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the top civil and military leadership, including Army chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa, reports Geo TV.

2 p.m.

Country is in safe hands, says Modi

Our Rajasthan correspondent Mohammed Iqbal reports:

At an election rally in Churu, Rajasthan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says, "The country is in safe hands."

“I vow that I will not let the country bow down. Nothing is above the nation. Today is a day to pay homage to India’s bravehearts,” he observes.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing an election rally at Churu in Rajasthan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing an election rally at Churu in Rajasthan.  

 

"The National War Memorial inaugurated yesterday is dedicated to our martyrs. Soldiers from Churu have been defending our borders," he states.

Earlier in the day, a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) was held at Mr. Modi’s residence. The meeting was attended by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and other top government officials.

1: 30 p.m.

Balakot situated in Pak. and not in PoK: senior IAF source

Our correspondents Dinakar Peri and Vijaita Singh report:

The pre-dawn air strikes by the Air Force's Mirage fighter jets was on a JeM training camp located in Balakot inside Pakistan and not the one in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), a senior IAF source said.

“The terror launch pads along the LoC were moved deep inside after the Pulwama attack. The training camp in Balakot was deep inside. It’s in proper Pakistan itself, close to Abbottabad infamous because of Osama bin Laden,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Balakot, about 40-50 km from the LoC, is situated in Mansehra district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It is about two hours’ drive from Abbottabad.

The JeM camp was situated on the Kunhar river. "The camp offered possibility of aquatic training to terrorists also. The camp housed more than 200 terrorists. The trainers were ex-Army personnel," an intelligence official said.

Before the inception of the JeM,  the camp was used by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, another terror outfit supported by Pakistan and active in Jammu and Kashmir.

1.00 p.m.

One injured in air strikes, Pakistani villagers

Reuters reports that one person was injured in the air strikes.

Pakistani villagers in the area where the jets struck said they heard four loud bangs in the early hours of Tuesday, but reported only one person was wounded by bomb shards. “We saw trees fall down and one house damaged and four craters formed where the bombs had fallen,” said Mohammad Ajmal, a 25-year-old who visited the site, reports Reuters.

Read more
 

12.45 p.m.

Afghan official congratulates IAF

Former Director of Public Affairs and Spokesperson to The National Security Council of Afghanistan, Tawab Ghorzang, in tweets, congratulates the IAF.

"Many thanks to @IAF_MCC for hitting terror outfits in Balakot of Mansehra, PAK. The area has been known to have the so-called Jihadi Training Camps since era of Zia-ul-Haq. Its a fight Against Terror, No one else! #IndiaStrikesBack," he says.

12.25 p.m.

Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor Suhasini Haidar confirms that the aerial strikes took place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

"JeM camp attacked was the biggest training camp, situated in KPK [not the one along the LoC]," sources say.

12.20 p.m.

BJP MLAs were marshalled out of the Delhi Assembly for chanting pro-Modi slogans instead of hailing the Indian Air Force, says Speaker Ram Niwas Goel.

12.20 p.m.

Who is Yusuf Azhar?

Maulana Yusuf Azhar is one of the terrorists who reportedly headed the JeM camp, which was struck by the IAF. He is reportedly brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, JeM chief.

Read more
 

12.10 p.m.

India has committed an aggression: Pakistan

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says India has committed an “aggression” by violating the LoC, and Islamabad has the "right to respond".

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was chairing an “important meeting” to discuss the situation, sources tell PTI.

“First, they committed aggression against Pakistan today. It is a violation of the LoC. I consider it a violation of the LoC, and Pakistan has right to give a suitable response in self defence,” he tells reporters after an “emergency meeting” with officials at the Foreign Office (FO) for consultations. Mr. Qureshi briefs the Prime Minister after the meeting at the FO.

Read more
 

12.05 p.m.

Pak. drone shot down near Gujarat border

A Pakistani unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is shot down near the International Border in Kutch district of Gujarat, PTI  quotes police sources as saying.

Debris of the UAV are seen near Nanghatad village in Abdasa taluka of Kutch, they say.

A police official, on condition of anonymity, says, “Such an incident has happened, we are investigating the matter.”

The official, however, refuses to elaborate further.

12 noon

Political leaders congratulate IAF

The Maharashtra Assembly passes a unanimous resolution congratulating the armed forces for carrying out air strikes on terror launch pads in Pakistan.

The resolution is moved by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who lauds the Indian Air Force for its bravery.

“We feel proud of our armed forces which did not allow martyrdom of our jawans to go in vain. We proved our might,” he says.

Makkal Neethi Maiam (MNM) President Kamal Haasan welcomes the air strikes and ’saluted’ the valour of the “heroes.” The country is “proud of its heroes,” he says in a tweet.

“Our 12 (apparently fighter jets) return safely home after wreaking havoc on terrorist camps in Pakistan. India is proud of its heroes. I salute their valour,” he says.

Totally a new ball game, says Omar Abdullah

"We’ve entered a whole new paradigm with the Balakote air strike. The post Uri strike was to avenge our losses, Balakote was a “preemptive strike to prevent an imminent JeM attack”. Totally new ballgame," tweets National Congress leader Omar Abdullah.

 

"A number of firsts from Balakote, the two most obvious are the first time air power has been used to strike in side Pakistan during peace times (last time in 1971 was during war) & first time visible, acknowledged use of force to preempt a perceived terror strike," he adds.

11.35 a.m.

Foreign Secy. confirms air strikes

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale has confirmed the air strikes.

Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale addressing the media after reports of India launching air strikes on JeM terror camps.

Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale addressing the media after reports of India launching air strikes on JeM terror camps.   | Photo Credit: V. V. Krishnan

 

At a briefing, Mr. Gokhale says the JeM terror camp in Balakot was destroyed. "In an intelligence led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot.  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.  This facility at Balakot was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar (alias Ustad Ghouri), the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, Chief of JeM," he says.

"The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism. Hence this non-military preemptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp.  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 observes.

Despite many questions, Mr. Gokhale does not confirm the location of Balakot.

Read more
 

11.20 a.m.

Prakash Javadekar hails aerial strikes

Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar hails the air strikes, saying the entire nation stands firmly behind the armed forces.

“It was a necessary step required for the security of the country ... it was an act of 'maha parakram' [mightily act],” PTI  quotes him as saying.

He says Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already given a free hand to the forces to take necessary action against following the Pulwama terror attack that left 40 CRPF personnel dead.

Hours after air strikes, Army tweets poem

The Indian Army tweets a Hindi poem, which says, “If you are docile and polite before the enemy, he may consider you as a coward, the way Kauravas treated Pandavas".

The poem by Hindi poet Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’ was tweeted by Additional Director General, Public Information on its official handle.

Peace overtures, the poem says, is possible only when you are in a powerful position and capable to win

11.10 a.m.

'Emergency meeting' in Islamabad

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi calls for an “emergency meeting”, reports PTI.

Mr. Qureshi will meet Prime Minister Imran Khan after the meeting.

10.50 a.m.

Alert in Gujarat

Our correspondent Mahesh Langa reports:

Gujarat DGP Shivanand Jha says high alert has been sounded in the State.

The DGP asks the SPs & range IGs to remain stationed at their respective headquarters.

"Three border districts — Patan, Banaskantha and Kutch in particular — have been put on alert, with the Indian Air Force on high alert at its air defense systems across western border with Pakistan. Coastal districts have also put on alert," he says.

10.30 a.m.

IAF night drills in Kashmir for past 4 days

The IAF has been carrying out night drills in Kashmir for the last four days, reports our correspondent Peerzada Ashiq.

Additional deployment has also been rushed to the International Border and LoC in Jammu, Rajouri, Poonch. "Yes, the security grid has been tightened," says an official on the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, restrictions are in place in parts of Srinagar and the Internet speed dialed down.

10.15 a.m.

 

Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat confirms on Twitter that the air strikes took place.

“Air Force carried out aerial strike early morning today at terror camps across the LoC (Line of Control) and Completely destroyed it,” he tweeted.

An image of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat's tweet.

An image of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat's tweet.  

 

10.00 a.m.

IAF intrusion in Muzafarabad sector was within 3-4 miles: Pakistan

Major General Asif Ghafoor, Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan Army, tweets, saying there are no casualties and no infrastructure damage.

"Indian aircrafts’ intrusion across LOC in Muzafarabad Sector within AJ&K was 3-4 miles. Under forced hasty withdrawal aircrafts released payload which had free fall in open area. No infrastructure got hit, no casualties. Technical details and other important information to follow," he tweets.

9.45 a.m.

Cabinet Committee on Security meets

The Cabinet Committee on Security meets at the Prime Minister's residence, reports Vijaita Singh.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are present at the meeting.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and other top officials of the Prime Minister’s Office and the security apparatus were were also present, official sources tell PTI.

9.35 a.m.

Rahul Gandhi tweets

Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweets, "I salute the pilots of the IAF."

The Congress also lauds the role of the Indian Air Force in keeping Indians safe with its consistent and determined effort.

“We salute the @IAF_MCC for their consistent & determined effort to keep Indians safe. Jai Hind,” the party says on its official Twitter handle.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweets, "I salute the bravery of Indian Air Force pilots who have made us proud by striking terror targets in Pakistan."

9.00 a.m.

Have no information: defence spokesperson

The Ministry of Defence tells Reuters news agency that it has no information about Pakistan's allegations that Indian aircraft violated the Pakistani airspace.

“I have no information,” a defence spokesperson said.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah says he will wait for official confirmation. "Wow, if this is true this was not a small strike by any stretch of imagination but will wait for official word, should any be forthcoming," he tweets.

8.30 a.m.

"Indian aircrafts intruded from Muzaffarabad sector"

Pakistan's Major General Asif Ghafoor says in a tweet, “Indian aircrafts intruded from Muzaffarabad sector. Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot. No casualties or damage.”

Mr. Ghafoor also tweets images that he claims to be of the site of the alleged payload drop.

 

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