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Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law was target of IAF strike in Balakot

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said the brother-in-law of Jaish chief Masood Azhar was the main target of the IAF strike at Balakot terror camp.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2019 15:18 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India Strikes Terror Camps,LOC,Pakistan balakot
Masood Azhar (L), chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), addressing a press conference in Karachi. (AFP: File photo)

Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law Maulana Yusuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghuari was the main target of the Indian Air Force (IAF) strike at Balakot, which is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The IAF carried out strikes at terror camps of the Jaish-e-Mohammed deep across the Line of Control (LoC) on early Tuesday morning in the wake of Pulwama terror attack on February 14.

The area where Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp was being run at Balakot is densely forested and located on a hilltop making the IAF operation very challenging that requires extreme precision. The IAF used Mirage 2000 fitted with laser-guided bombs to strike at the terror camps. Mirage 2000 was very successful during the Kargil war in 1999.

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Briefing the mediapersons following a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in New Delhi, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said, “A large number of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, trainers, senior commanders were eliminated in largest JeM camp in Balakot. The camp was led by Maulana Yusuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghauri, the brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar.”

Yusuf Azhar was one of the terrorists who hijacked the Indian Airlines flight IC 814 in 1999 on its way from Kathmandu to New Delhi. The hijacked plane was taken to Kandahar by the terrorists.

Jaish chief Masood Azhar was among the terrorists released by India to secure release of more than 170 passengers onboard the hijacked plane. In 2002, when India handed over a list of 20 most wanted criminals to Pakistan, Yusuf Azhar’s named featured in the document.

Watch: ‘Air Force bombed JeM’s biggest camp in Pakistan’: Foreign Secretary

Gokhale said, “The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualty. It’s located in deep forest on a hilltop.” The camp was located at about 195 km from Islamabad and over 40 km from Muzaffarabad.

Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack, in which at least 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans were killed. A suicide bomber had targeted a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying more than 2,500 CRPF jawans from Jammu to Srinagar.

Also Read | Pakistan calls ‘emergency meeting’ after India carried out air strikes

India responded with a series of actions targeted a Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the forces have been given “freedom” to choose the “time and place” to avenge deaths of the soldiers. The IAF strikes at terror camps across the LoC have come in the same the wake.

Gokhale said the IAF attacks were conducted following specific intelligence inputs about the presence of terror camps in the target areas. “In an intelligence lead operation in the early hours today, India struck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakote…Credible information was received that JeM was attempting other attacks in the country. A pre-emptive strike became important. India struck the biggest camp of JeM in Balakote,” Gokhale said.

He said, “India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all measures to fight the menace of terrorism. This non-military pre-emptive action was targeted specifically at JeM camp.”

First Published: Feb 26, 2019 12:17 IST