Indian Foreign Sectary Vijay Keshav Gokhale speaks to the media about an Indian Air Force strike across the Line of Control in Pakistan. Photo by Rajat Gupta/EPA-EFE
Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The Indian air force conducted pre-dawn airstrikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed camps in Pakistan in retaliation against the terrorist group for its Feb. 14 attack that left over 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force personnel dead.
Twelve Indian Mirage fighter jets targeted the terrorist group's largest training camp, dropping 1,000-kilogram bombs on the Balakot, Pakistan, location in an intelligence-led, non-military, pre-emptive action, Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale said Tuesday.
"Credible intelligence was received that (Jaish-e-Mohammed) 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 pre-emptive strike became absolutely necessary," he said in a media briefing.
A number of terrorists, including trainers and senior commanders, have been killed, though the exact number is not yet known, he said.
"The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties. The facility is located in 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," Gokhale said.
He said that India had told Pakistan of the existence of the camp and urged the country to dismantle the organization.
"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.
Earlier, Pakistan's military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor tweeted that Indian jets had crossed the military Line of Control between the two countries, violating its airspace.
"Indian aircrafts intruded from Muzaffarabad sector. Facing timely and effective response for Pakistan Air Force released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot," he said, adding that there were no casualties.
The major then tweeted pictures of the assumed area where the payload had been dropped.
The airstrike comes two weeks after Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists suicide bombed a police reservist convoy in India's Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, killing over 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel.
The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group claimed responsibility not long after, turning the ire of India towards its neighbor whom it holds responsible for harboring the group.
Following the attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had threatened Pakistan that it would pay "a hefty price" while India has made diplomatic moves to isolate the country.
Then on Feb. 18, Indian security forces killed three terrorists who orchestrated the attack.
Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Jawed Bajwa told troops deployed at the Kashmir Line of Control Friday to "be ready to face any eventually," Times of India reported.
Not long after the airstrike Tuesday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said India had "committed aggression" toward his country while having violated the Line of Control.
Qureshi spoke to reporters Tuesday following an emergency meeting to discuss India's airstrike, and he said, "Pakistan has the right to give a suitable response in self-defense."