Indian fighter jets have crossed into Pakistani territory, conducting what the foreign ministry termed a “non-military pre-emptive action” against armed group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), dramatically escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours weeks after a suicide attack in the disputed Kashmir region.
Pakistan first reported the Indian airspace incursion early on Tuesday, with Pakistani military spokesperson Major-General Asif Ghafoor saying Pakistani air force jets were scrambled to respond, forcing the Indian aircraft to “release.
payload in haste while escaping”.
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, however, asserted that the jets had hit their target, and that “a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated”.
Local residents and journalists in Pakistan told Al Jazeera that the sounds of aircraft and an explosion were heard in the Jaba area of Mansehra district, located about 60km from the LoC – the de facto border that divides Indian- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
India and Pakistan have fought three of their four wars over the disputed territory of Kashmir, which both claim in full but administer separate portions of.
The airstrikes on Tuesday appear to have taken place outside of Kashmir, at least 10km inside the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistan’s military did not confirm the location of the incident, offering conflicting reports that at first placed it near the town of Balakot, about 12km from Jaba, and then later claimed it occurred within the confines of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Tensions between South Asian neighbours have been high since February 14, when a suicide attacker killed at least 42 Indian security forces personnel in the Indian-administered Kashmir town of Pulwama.
Source: Al Jazeera