Air strike: Here's why Balakot was chosen by Indian Air Force

File photo: Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa. Photograph:( PTI )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 26, 2019, 12.17 PM (IST)

The Indian Air Force, in a pre-dawn air strike on Tuesday, destroyed terror camps across the Line of Control by using laser-guided bombs. The strikes were carried out by Mirage-2000 aircraft at Muzaffarabad, Chakoti and Balakot - the terror hub in Pakistan.

Balakot, a town in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, is about 50km from the Line of Control and known among the intelligence agencies as "epicentre of jihad". It has been on the radar of American forces for a long time and is 50km from Abbottabad where al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces.

Analysts allege that many Pakistan-based terror groups have their base and training camps in the area. The camp which was targeted in Tuesday's strike, was located on a hilltop. Terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed chose Balakot for its base after Taliban were routed in the year 2001. Jaish-supported Al-Rehman Trust is also active in the area, according to intelligence agencies.

"In an intelligence lead operation in the early hours today, India struck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commander and jihadis were eliminated," India's foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said at a briefing after the air strikes.

The camp was led by Maulana Yusuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghauri, brother-in-law of JeM Chief Masood Azhar, Gokhale added.

"Credible intelligence was received that Jaish-e-Mohammed was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country & fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose. A pre-emptive strike became important," Gokhale said.

The strike on Tuesday comes amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan after the February 14 suicide attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group in Kashmir's Pulwama district that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.

Hours later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) which was attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Story highlights

The strike on Tuesday comes amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan after the February 14 suicide attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group.