An audio message issued by a senior leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed appears to confirm that Indian jets hit the militant training camp run by the Pakistan-based outfit in Balakot and inflicted significant damage, one of the clearest contradictions yet to Islamabad’s version that the Indian operation hit only a patch of trees.
The message bears the voice of Maulana Ammar, who has been identified as the brother of JeM founder Masood Azhar. It was first tweeted out by a Pakistani journalist who lives in France and has been verified by Indian security agencies, officials said.
“The enemy announced a war by crossing its borders to enter an Islamic country and launching bombs on Muslim schools. So, raise your weapons and show them if jihad is still an obligation or a duty,” the man is hearing saying in the recording, which officials believe was made two days after the Balakot air strike and played out as an address to militants at the Madrassah Sanan bin Salma in Peshawar.
“Let me remind you that the Indian aircrafts did not bomb the safe house of any agency, they didn’t attack any headquarters, they didn’t attack the meeting points of agencies (JeM), they attacked the schools where students were being trained to understand jihad better and vowed to help “oppressed” Kashmiris. By entering our territories and attacking our schools, India has ensured the beginning of jihad against them,” he said.
A senior Indian security agency official said the address was a “clear confirmation of the effectiveness of the airstrikes”. “The tone and tenor of the message also indicate that the strikes have hit the group hard forcing a senior functionary to issue a message to their cadre,” this official said, asking not to be named.
Foreign secretary VK Gokhale, while announcing the Indian air strikes, said the action was meant to pre-empt further fidayeen style attacks on India.
New Delhi decided to hit the JeM training camp in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because the facility was to “start the training and indoctrination of fresh group of recruits and senior JeM functionaries were to be present as well,” the officer quoted above added.
India has not made public the casualties in the strike.
A senior air force official on Thursday said there was ample indication that the objective of the bombing, carried out a couple of hours before daybreak on Tuesday, had met its objective.