Why is Balakot, as a target, important for India’s air strike

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In a retaliatory attack for Pulwama, 12 Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 jets reportedly crossed undetected into Pakistan and hit Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Balakot is the stronghold of Jaish-e-Mohammed and several of their terror camps are located here. It is believed that Jaish chief Masood Azhar and his brother, Ibrahim, regularly conducted their meetings here.


ANI also reported that critical targets in Chakothi and Muzaffarabad, which lie in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, were also hit.

Around 3:30am, the Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter jets used laser-guided bombs to target terror camps. They took nearly 20 minutes to carry out the strike.

Why is Balakot important as a target for India?

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.  “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,” NC leader Omar Abdullah said in a tweet, when the name of the strike target was unclear.

 

Balakot in Pakistan is about 40 kms ahead of Muzzarafabad, the capital of PoK. It is approx 60 kms from Abbottabad, where Osama Bin Laden was killed.

As per sources, it is the bed of most terrorist activities of Jaish-e-Muhammad, a terror outfit that has been active here since many years. In fact, it is supposedly their oldest launch pad.

It is a popular location where JeM holds its propaganda meetings and rallies. The camp was set up in 2001 and is headed by JeM senior leader and brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, Yusuf Azhar, known for his role in designing suicide bombing squads.

Intelligence sources say that the training camp at Besyan Chowk has produced thousands of terrorists. Balakot has, in the past too, been spoken a lot because of its access from LoC and the infiltration activities that are carried out from here. The training camp was located on a hill in the midst of thick forest area. It was away from civilian population.

JeM chief Masood Azhar reportedly wrote the Fath-ul Jawwad, his disquisition on the Quranic basis of jihad, during a retreat at Balakot. The book is inspired from the 1831 unsuccessful insurgency that Islamic revivalists Syed Ahmed Barelvi and Shah Ismail launched on the Sikh empire.

A few years back, the town had also seen a major earthquake that killed an approximate 75,000 people.

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