March 2019 News

3 Key Operatives Died In Balakot

3 March 2019
The Tribune
Ajay Banerjee

New Delhi: Three key operatives, including a Pakistan spy agency ISI Colonel, were killed in the February 26 Indian Air Force strike on a Jaish-e-Moham-med terror camp at Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, sources have said. There are also unconfirmed reports of JeM founder Masood Azhar's death due to injuries. However, a Pakistan TV channel, quoting sources close to the family of the JeM chief, said Azhar is 'alive', without elaborating on his health condition. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had yesterday said Azhar was being treated at a hospital. Inter-Services Intelligence Colonel Salim Qari, JeM trainer Maulana Moeen and the handler of Pulwama suicide bomber Adil Dar were among those killed in the IAF assault. Colonel Qari was the trainer for almost three generations of suicide bombers and had carried out covert operations in India and Afghanistan. The ISI officer used to stay at the JeM camp. There is credible human and technical intelligence to suggest Moeen, a bomb maker, was killed along with Dar's handler. Sources said the number of terrorists killed in the Balakot strike was nearly 30 and not 250-300. The airstrikes hit all terror safe houses, except the main building, located on a hilltop at Balakot where a sprawling 4.5-acre campus exists. Though the Balakot terror camp usually holds 250-300 trainee terrorists, Pakistan had moved out most of them apprehending a strike. 'That night (February 26), no more than 80-100 terrorists were there,' the sources said. Neither the Indian Government nor the IAF had claimed 300 casualties, as was being reported by the media based on the usual average strength of the terror camp. Data and imagery with the government indicate the 'Popeye' air-to-surface missiles fired from Mirage 2000 fighter jets had hit the designated targets. India also has inputs that its embassy in Afghanistan capital Kabul and consulates in Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif may be targeted by the JeM in retaliation, with the terror outfit now under pressure from Pakistan not to hit targets inside India. ISI colonel, Pulwama handler eliminated: ISI Colonel Salim Qari, JeM trainer Maulana Moeen and Pulwama suicide bomber's handler among those killed. All terror safe houses, except the main building on the 4.5-acre JeM camp, destroyed by IAF missiles. Only 80-100 terrorists present at time of strike. Pak moved out most of 250-300 trainee terrorists fearing strike. Indian Kabul embassy and two consulates in Afghanistan on alert as these may be targeted by JeM in retaliation. Hurting national interest: 'Cong-led UPA from 2004 to 2014 ran a terrible government. From 2014 to 2019, it was even a more terrible Opposition. Their statements have hurt India's national interest. They give smiles to Pakistan to discredit India'-Arun Jaitley, FM Aim was to send message: 'The purpose of the airstrikes was not to cause human casualty but to send out the message that India is capable of hitting deep inside enemy lines. Neither PM Modi nor any government spokesperson had given any figure on the casualty. The media and social media did that'-SS Ahluwalia, Union Minister. Why question those asking: 'Calling those who question veracity of strikes anti-national is baffling. Opposition should not fall into trap of changing entire poll discourse from pressing issues... How does it help the enemies? Only puts govt in tight spot.' -Mehbooba Mufti, PDP chief