There’s been a lot of noise about what happened in Balakot on 26th Feb 2019 and on LoC on 27th Feb. There were lots of claims from both sides but nothing definite. Indian officials were tight lipped and issued only terse statements , while Pakistanis released one statement after another. Media reports from both sides were as usual quite trashy and more noise than substance. In all this noise, there were some recordings, witness statements and less publicised events which provide some hints about what actually happened. There is some new information coming out almost every day and it’s a difficult task to do detailed fact checks and connect all the dots. Following is an attempt to find some answers based upon some of the facts which are seemingly true. This part covers just the Balakot strikes on 26th Feb. If I have some time, I’ll write something about events of next day.
26th Feb. 2:55 am : A Indian Air Force strike team consisting solely of Mirage 2000 fighter jets attacked a JeM terrorist training camp in Balakot in Khyber Phaktunwa province across international border. There were reports of 2 other targets, Chakoti and Muzaffarabad in Pakistan being hit, but no confirmations from either side. But both sides are in agreement that Balakot was bombed.
India announced the attacks later in the day via an official statement made by Vijay Gokhale, Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs
Pakistanis on the other hand made a number of mutually contradictory claims.
- “Pakistani National Security Committee strongly rejected Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties. Once again Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim,” 1* 2*
- Pakistan foreign minister Qureshi said “multi-dimensional intrusion” had been attempted by the Indian fighter jets early on Tuesday. “But the intervention by Pakistani jets forced them to return back within minutes,” he said. The minister dismissed the notion that Pakistan Air Force jets were late in responding to the Indian attack, saying the planes were “ready” and “air-borne”. 2*
- Director-general of Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, said India had “attempted” to send its combat air patrols (CAPs) “first from the Lahore-Sialkot sector” and they were “challenged” by Pakistani CAP. “They tried to enter from Bahawalpur-Okara and were forced to go back,” he said. According to Ghafoor, “the third (Indian) CAP which was bigger in number made it from Muzaffarabad and they were challenged and were forced to return”. 2*
Payload of hastily escaping Indian aircrafts fell in open. pic.twitter.com/8drYtNGMsm
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) February 26, 2019
Pakistani Army confirmed attack on Twitter with pictures of craters outside the terrorist training facility. They claimed that bombs missed target and damaged only one civilian who suffered a gash on his forehead and a few trees. “Payload of hastily escaping Indian aircrafts fell in open. pic.twitter.com/8drYtNGMsm”
- This video shows house of a local “civilian” close to the terrorist camp. It is a bit odd as it shows a small crater about 25-30 meters downhill and narrator claims that the whole house has been severely damaged.
Following are some videos and pictures which tell a different story.
- This video was uploaded on 8th March by a Pakistani media outlet. It shows a senior Pakistani army officer in a village meeting consoling family members of some (200) dead people. Some roughly translated lines below:
Whoever fights alongside rulers of land in name of jihad is fighting for jihad.
Yesterday 200 people died. It was written in their fate, not ours.
Your father is not dead, he is alive. We don’t call him dead,
So this Pakistani army man is definitely admitting that 200 or more “good jihadis” got killed in one go.
2. Indian government and armed forces have release very little information till now. Maybe it’ll change later as it did with Uri strikes. But as of now, one major statement made is that Indian intelligence had detected around 300 mobile phone signals in the terrorist camp. 4*
3. Following interview with some locals deflate official Pakistani claims
a. Access to whole area has been completely blocked off for outsiders as well as locals.
b. Pakistani authorities are prohibiting any information leaks. For this, they’ve blocked internet, enforced no go zones and are actively warning people against talking to anyone.
4. BBC Urdu interviewed a local resident who claimed to have heard atleast 5 huge explosions. But Pakistanis have released pictures of only 1 crater site, which by the way doesn’t seem to be a crater made by a high explosive bomb.
5. BBC interview of some locals confirming that all flow of information and regular movement of even civilians has been blocked by Pakistani army
What Happened :
Following are my guesses based upon available information:
- IAF Mirage 2000s did attack atleast one target at Balakot. Other two possible targets were Chakoti and Muzaffarabad. Both are near to LoC in J&K
- Earlier reports said that terrorist camp was hit using “1000 kg bombs”. Later it was revealed to be Spice, which is actually a guidance kit for 2000, 1000 and 500 pound bombs in Indian inventory. I believe that it was Spice 1000 used for 1000 lbs (450 kg) bombs which can have 200 kgs of high explosives. A single 1000 kg bomb will have around 450 kgs of explosives which will blow off most of hill top. Considering that avoiding collateral damage was one major mission objective, it’s unlikely that 1000 kg bombs were used.
- According to local witness accounts, 4-5 bombs were dropped. It should be pretty obvious that these smart bombs usually don’t miss. Even if we believe story of that single injured civilian whose house was damaged, there are still 3-4 other bombs which found their mark. Their impact points have not been made public by Pakistan and access blocked off.
- There have been atleast 200 causalities including some terrorists, their trainers as well as regular Pakistani army. Pakistan is doing everything in it’s power to hide it. We’ll have to wait for more information to be released by Indian government to have a reasonably accurate number and actual impact.
- 1. https://www.news18.com/news/world/pakistan-vows-to-respond-to-indian-air-strikes-at-time-and-place-of-its-choosing-2049355.html
- 2. https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/damage-come-and-see-it-says-pakistan/cid/1685821
- 3. https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/jaish-e-mohammed-camp-balakot-pakistan-blocks-media-1473243-2019-03-08
- 4. http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/mar/04/ntro-surveillance-of-balakot-jem-camp-before-strikes-confirmed-300-active-targets-1946650.html