HIT TO PAK: Foreign secretary Gokhale says this was non-military, pre-emptive strike; no civilians hit

Vijay Gokhale, foreign secretary, addressing the media on Tuesday to explain the Balakot air attack

UPDATE: Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to brief political party leaders at 5pm on the IAF action in Pakistan

NEW DELHI: Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale read out a statement at a media conference here at 11.30am, saying IAF jets targeted the biggest terror camps of Jaish in the forests in Pakistan, several terrorists were killed, and there were no civilian casualties. He said this action was taken after intelligence information that more terror attacks were being planned against India by Pakistan-based Jaish. This action thus became absolutely necessary, he said.

“A large number of JeM terrorists, trainers and senior commanders were eliminated in largest JeM camp in Balakot which was led by Maulana Yusuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghauri, the brother in law of JeM Chief Masood Azhar,” the official said, but there is no word yet on the fate Ustad Ghauri.

Gokhale said Pakistan was repeatedly advised to rein in Jaish, but it took no meaningful action so far. “This was a non-military pre-emptive strike on terrorist installations, and no civilians were target. It took place deep inside the forests in Balakot area,” he said.

“We now expect Pakistan to live up to its commitment,” he added. The foreign secretary took no questions from the media and ended the press meet after reading out the prepared statement. 

 In a suprise hit on Pakistan, a set of 12 Indian Air Force Mirage-200 fighter jets took off from Ambala air base and dropped 1000kg of bombs — laser-guided missiles — on terror camps some 50km deep inside Pakistan from the LoC at around 3.30am on Tuesday, in retaliation to the Pulwama suicide bomb attack on CRPF jawans by Pakistan-based Jaish terror group. Reports also emerge that a Pakistani drone was shot down near Gujarat border last night. 

Unmanned drones had also participated in the pre-dawn strike by IAF in Balakot. –IHN-NN

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