When Indian authorities said that the Indian Air Force has carried out a pre-emptive air strike that has killed 300 Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists including their leader, Yousuf Azhar, in Northern Pakistan’s Balakot region, Pakistan authorities did not agree.
And they’re might be right.
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.
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, pre-dawn on February 26.
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-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar, leads the Balakot camp. He too was announced dead by Indian authorities.
As of writing, Indian authorities still have not commented on the images the satellite took and whether or not they have inflated the announcement to make it appear as if their operation was a success.
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.
The images have counted doubt on India’s claim and seem to support the statement made by Pakistan that the strike hit not one of the Jaish Camps in Balakot.
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.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that India has ‘resorted to a self-serving, reckless, and fictitious claim.’
Lewis and Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation studies who also analyses satellite images, said large weapons would cause noticeable damage to the structures visible in the picture.
“If the strike had been successful, given the information we have about what kind of munitions were used, I would expect to see signs that the buildings had been damaged,” Lewis added. “I just don’t see that here.”
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.
On Monday, a piece of fake news about a supposed second airstrike from IAF has caused panic in Pakistan. Both countries later denied this claim. Following the first air strike, both countries have released conflicting statements taunting each other. Reports show that both countries have increased militarization in the Indo-Pak border and open fires and shellings have been documented following the strike.
Amid the escalating tension between the two countries, the European Union and China urged both governments to implement ‘maximum restraint’ over the brewing escalation and the hashtag #saynotowar trends in Twitter as people around the world call for more tolerance from both camps. /apr