India claims pre-dawn strike across LoC; Pak maintains ‘payload dropped in haste’

Srinagar, Feb 26,: India on Tuesday launched what it called a “preemptive” air strike against Pakistan-based militants following a an attack by Jaish-e-Muhammad outfit in Lethpora Pulwama that killed at least 49 Para-military troopers.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said the Indian Air Force targeted Balakot, about 80 kilometers from the Line of Control.

Pakistan’s military earlier accused India’s Air Force of violating its airspace, and said it scrambled its own fighter jets in response.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned New Delhi not to challenge Islamabad, saying that “better sense should prevail in India,” according to Radio Pakistan.

It according to Indian media is said to be the first air strike launched across the Line of Control since a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbors in 1971.

Tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi have escalated since a suicide attack claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group killed at least 49 soldiers on the Indian side of divided Kashmir.

Gokhale told a news conference that the Indian strike had targeted a militant camp, adding: “A very large number of [JeM] terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen (suicide) action were eliminated.”

“In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became absolutely necessary,” he also said.

The Indian media reported that 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets had attacked a “terrorist camp.”

Earlier, Pakistani military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted that Indian jets had crossed the Line of Control, and traveled as many as 6.4 kilometers into Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

“Pakistan Air Force immediately scrambled. Indian aircrafts gone back,” Ghafoor wrote in a separate tweet.

The Indian aircraft “released payload in haste near Balakot,” he said, adding that there were “no casualties or damage.”

Pakistan said that it would respond to India’s claims of air strikes on targets on its territory.

A statement from Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) followed within hours of Mr. Gokhale’s press briefing.

“Forum concluded that India has committed an 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 Parliament,” stated an official statement.

The NSC meeting was attended by Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Finance and Chief of the Army Staff General Bajwa, among others. Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged people of Pakistan to remain prepared for all eventualities.

“Forum strongly rejected Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties. Once again Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim,” the statement argued. It alleged that the Indian government initiated action for domestic compulsions.

The government of Pakistan said that they will take domestic and international media to the impact zone that was hit by Indian payloads.

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