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IAF quashes 'no damage' reports on Balakot strikes, says targets were hit

To collect the data of causalities and verify the claims of airstrike, representatives of foreign media have also visited Balakot and recorded some residents claiming that there had been few or no casualties. However, no one has been allowed at the camp itself that is near Balakot on a hilltop in a wooded area. Some foreign correspondents have reported that locals have spoken of a few dozen bodies being removed from the area.

Saima Siddiqui

Saima SiddiquiBy Saima Siddiqui

Published on 7 March 2019 5:26 AM GMT

IAF quashes no damage reports on Balakot strikes, says targets were hit
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IAF quashes 'no damage' reports on Balakot strikes, says targets were hit
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New Delhi: Amid the growing confusion on whether India did strike the Pakistan based terror training camp, Jaish-e-Mohammed at Balakot, Indian air force has once again maintained its stand on hitting intended target and has also furnished evidences to the government in its support.

Contrary to IAF's claims images produced by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, witnessed no signs of a bombing. The image shows at least six buildings on the site of the Jaish camp on March 4. The report claimed the image was virtually unchanged from an April 2018 photo and had no signs of a bombing.

“There are no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrassa or other signs of an aerial attack,” a report said. The credibility of the image was confirmed by Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-proliferation programme at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who “confirmed” that the satellite picture showed the structures in question.

Indian government sources previously said the attack did not target the entire Jaish campus, but only 5-6 specific buildings. The IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanao had confirmed that the intended targets were hit even as he did not offer an estimate of how many persons may have died.

However, politics around the airstrike has also created a lot of obscurity around the validity of the strike. Where Congress, the largest opposition, watching every move of Modi-led central government with suspicion, the government, however, paddling hard to clarify the accounts on casualties.

On Wednesday, television channels played yet another set of satellite images claiming that the targets at the Jaish terror camp had been hit.

The images showed areas that were identified as blast impact sites where vegetation was allegedly damaged. The TV reports claimed that this was the result of the blasts at the buildings that were hit. It was also alleged that the bodies of terrorists at the camp might have been buried at the site to hide evidence and there were efforts to rebuild the roofs. The similar images were also showed by several media houses with in few days of the strike, where large caters were seen formed due to the impact of the bombings.

To collect the data of causalities and verify the claims of airstrike, representatives of foreign media have also visited Balakot and recorded some residents claiming that there had been few or no casualties. However, no one has been allowed at the camp itself that is near Balakot on a hilltop in a wooded area. Some foreign correspondents have reported that locals have spoken of a few dozen bodies being removed from the area.

Adding new twist to this matter a statement given by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and an audio message issued by a senior leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed also obfuscate the fact that Indian jets hit the Pakistan-based terrorist training camps in Balakot.

Where, Shah Mahmood said in a statement that the Indian operation hit only a patch of trees, Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s brother confirmed that Indian Air force had targeted the Madarsa (Muslim schools) and had inflicted serious damage to the buildings.

The IAF, however, has been sticking to its stand that it hit the intended targets in pre-dawn strikes on February 26. “The bombs, which were pre-loaded with satellite images and geographical coordinates of the JeM facility, pierced the roofs of the targeted buildings and exploded inside. The inmates would have been killed by the blast and shock waves,” a source said.

Rejecting commercially-available satellite imagery being used by some experts to claim there was no major visible external damage to the facility, IAF sources said it was up to the government to decide whether it wanted to release the SAR (synthetic aperture radar) and other pictures captured by Indian surveillance platforms during the strikes.

The SAR had showed the wreckage of four buildings of Madrasa Taleem-ul-Quran demolished by Indian Air Force, on Monday-Tuesday night, in a non-military operation on Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camps at Balakot, as per sources.

The airstrike was conducted after receiving credible intelligence of more possible Pulwama like attacks in India and that more fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose.

Saima Siddiqui

Saima Siddiqui

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