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Punjab border districts on high alert, CM to visit areas on Wednesday

News Agencies | Updated on: 26 February 2019, 18:11 IST
Amarinder Singh

In view of the operation of Indian Air Force (IAF) against terror camps in Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, targeting JeM camps on early Tuesday morning, Punjab government has put its border districts on a high alert.

Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh will visit the border areas from Pathankot to Ferozepur by road on Wednesday. Singh has also ordered a spate of measures as a part of the state's preparedness to deal with any contingency in view of the latest developments at the Line of Control (LoC).

The border district officials have been asked to put in place all contingency plans to ensure the protection and safety of the citizens. Chief Minister Singh also chaired a high-level meeting with top officials to review the situation.

"The meeting was of the view that there was no need for panic and has decided against any move to evacuate the residents of the border areas. All aspects of the current situation were discussed with the top brass of the police, civil administration, and other senior officials," an official spokesperson said.

Chief minister's Media Advisor Raveen Thukral, who was also present in the meeting, said the Chief Minister has directed the officials to monitor the situation closely and not let down their guard under any circumstances.

"The state government was in touch with the Union Home and Defence Ministries to remain abreast of the situation. The government was fully prepared to deal with any eventuality," said Thukral.

The Chief Minister also tweeted, "Great job by the #IndianAirForce. The #IAFStrikes have sent the much-needed signal to Pakistan and the terrorists it's harbouring - don't think you can get away with acts like the #PulwamaAttack. Bravo to the #IAF men and my full support for the action."

IAF's strikes on terror camps in Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province comes 12 days after the dreaded terror outfit-Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)-carried out a debilitating attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama on February 14 in which as many as 40 jawans were killed.

Briefing the press about IAF strikes on JeM targets, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in New Delhi on Tuesday morning: "In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of Tuesday, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot."

"In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis, who were being trained for fidayeen action, were eliminated. This facility at Balakot was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghouri, the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, chief JeM," said Gokhale.

"Credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country, and the fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose. In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became absolutely necessary," he said.

"The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism. Hence, this non-military preemptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp," he said.

"The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties. The facility is located in the thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence. As the strike has taken place only a short while ago, we are awaiting further details," he said.

"The Government of Pakistan had made a solemn commitment in January 2004 not to allow its soil or territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India. We expect that Pakistan lives up to its public commitment and takes follow up actions to dismantle all JeM and other camps and hold the terrorists accountable for the actions," he said.

Gokhale further said: "On February 14, 2019, a suicide terror attack was conducted by a Pak based terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad, leading to the martyrdom of 40 brave jawans of the CRPF. JeM has been active in Pakistan for the last two decades, and is led by Masood Azhar with its headquarters in Bahawalpur."

"This organisation, which is proscribed by the UN, has been responsible of a series of terrorist attacks including on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and the Pathankot airbase in January 2016," he said.

"Information regarding the location of training camps in Pakistan and PoJK has been provided to Pakistan from time to time. Pakistan, however, denies their existence. The existence of such massive training facilities capable of training hundreds of jihadis could not have functioned without the knowledge of Pakistan authorities," he said.

"India has been repeatedly urging Pakistan to take action against the JeM to prevent jihadis from being trained and armed inside Pakistan. Pakistan has taken no concrete actions to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil," said Gokhle.

IAF targeted JeM camps in Balakot, Chakothi, and Muzaffarabad. Balakot is believed to be the biggest JeM hideout in Pakistan. Balakot was earlier confused with Bala Kote, which is located along the Line of Control (LoC), very close to Rajouri and Azmatabad in Jammu and Kashmir.

Talking about the IAF strikes, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: "If this is Balakot in KPK, it is a major incursion and a significant strike by the IAF planes."

"However, if it's Bala Kote in Poonch sector, along the LoC, it's a largely symbolic strike because at this time of the year forward launch pads and militant camps are empty and non-functional," he said.

In another tweet, he said, "Unless we know which Bala Kote is being talked about by the Pakistani Generals, it is pointless speculating about what we may have hit and what fallout the airstrike will have."

However, contradicting India's claim, spokesperson of Pakistan Armed Forces, Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted: "Indian aircraft's intrusion across LoC in Muzaffarabad Sector within AJ & K was 3-4 miles. Under forced hasty withdrawal aircraft released payload which had free fall in the open area. No infrastructure got hit, no casualties.

-ANI

First published: 26 February 2019, 18:11 IST
 
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