Pakistan Blocks Journalists From Entering Balakot Air Strike Site

Pakistan blocked the entry of journalists to the site of Indian air strike in Balakot after Reuters published sattelite images of the site being destroyed.Image from Muhammad Ali Mar / Flickr

A few days after the release of satellite images that purportedly show that the IAF did not destroy the religious school operated by the Jaish-e-Mohammed group, members of the media are blocked from entering the Balakot air strike site, a report says.

The UK-based news agency, Reuters, said in one of its reports that their journalists were barred from entering the site where the hilltop religious school is located in the Jaba Village of Balakot in Pakistan. The journalists said that they were denied entry to the site three times for the last nine days.

The officials guarding the way to the site said they are not letting the reporters climb a hill in northeastern Pakistan to the site of a madrasa due to “security concerns.”

High-resolution satellite images reviewed by news agencies in the United Kingdom showed that a religious school purportedly run by Jaish terrorists is still standing in Northern Pakistan – proof that the neutralization operation of the IAF was a botched job.

In the high-resolution satellite images released by Planet Labs Inc., a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, six buildings on the madrasa are seen unscathed on March 4.

Although the high-resolution images of the strike site are still not publicly available, the released photos show details as small as 72 cm (28 inc). According to analysis, the images are virtually unchanged from the satellite images taken from April 2018; with no discernable holes on the roof of the buildings, no visible scorching, no blown out walls, and no displaced trees on the madrasa area, and other things that is expected to be found on an air strike site.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who has 15 years’ experience in analyzing satellite images of weapons sites and systems, confirmed that the high-resolution satellite picture showed the structures in question.

“The high-resolution images don’t show any evidence of bomb damage,” he said. Lewis viewed three other high-resolution Planet Labs pictures of the site taken within hours of the image provided to Reuters.

Pakistan government said that the air strike carried out by Indian forces last February 29 has no casualty, contrary to what India is saying that the JeM camp was totally destroyed.

According to Indian authorities, jets dropped 1,000 kg laser-guided bombs in a ‘non-military, pre-emptive’ strike against one of the biggest camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed.

They said that the strike has killed over 300 terrorists and have effectively destroyed a significant camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed which they described as the ‘heart of training for suicide bombers.’

Yousuf Azhar, the brother-in-law of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, leads the Balakot camp. He too was announced dead by Indian authorities.

However, these claims were dismissed by the Pakistani government saying that the Indian troops were not able to kill any terrorist in their ‘reckless’ operation.

Sources from Pakistan reported that residents said that aside from waking up because of a loud bang, there was no casualty in the said operation.

Pakistani officials said that their jets forced Indian panes to withdraw and drop their ‘payload’ in a sparsely inhabited area – leaving no casualty after the operation.

However, authorities from India bragged that among the bombs they dropped, six of them hit the Jaish facility after a one-hour-and-a-half operation that allowed Indian jets to go home ‘without a scratch.’

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that India has ‘resorted to a self-serving, reckless, and fictitious claim.’

A source from India has said that Pakistan army has cordoned off the entire area of Balakot and are clearing away evidence such as dead bodies so that they can deny India’s claims of the latest IAF strike wiping 300 militants in the area.

A report from ‘India,’ a local Indian news agency, said that intel reports revealed that the Pakistan Army has undertaken a sanitation drive and is hiding bodies of terrorists killed in the Balakot camp strike to avert any claims or questions from New Delhi.

The Indian retaliation, the Balakot Air Strike, followed the Jaish attack on Indian diplomats where terrorists blew up explosives next to a security envoy in Pulwama in Kashmir, killing 40 Indian soldiers.

The escalating conflict between Pakistan and India stems back from their claims of Kashmir, where both countries claim complete ownership but only control only a part of it. The recent Indian strike is the first time India went across the Line Of Control, a boundary between Pakistan-owned Kashmir (PoK) and Indian-owned Kashmir (PoK), since 1971.

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