The Indian Air Force pilots, who carried out the airstrikes on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot on early Tuesday morning, were given clear instructions by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval – in case they were captured, it will be a “suicide mission”, according to sources. More than 350 Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, including Fidayeen and their trainers, were killed as IAF used 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets in a five-star, resort style camp in a hilltop forest in Balakot in Pakistan on early Tuesday morning, according to sources.
Hundreds of Fidayeen and their trainers were shifted from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to the camp in Balakot after the Pulwama attack, providing Indian forces with "a sitting duck target" when they carried out an air strike early Tuesday, killing up to 350 terrorists, sources told news agency PTI said. They said at least 325 terrorists and 25 to 27 trainers were at the camp, the biggest operated by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad group, which had claimed responsibility for the February 14 suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, Kashmir that killed 40 jawans.
The pilots were also instructed by the NSA that the target should only be terror bases (training or launch pads) and not Pakistan military bases. They were also asked to make sure there was no collateral damage in the operation. “The IAF was tasked to carry out strike on February 16. The IAF’s DG air operations (offensive) sought 10 day-time to prepare precision strikes. The NSA granted it with the instruction of zero collateral damage to men and the aircraft,” said the sources.
On the same day, the Indian Navy was tasked to deploy submarines closer to Karachi and Gwadar in an attempt to create decoy and confuse Pakistanis of a maritime attack from India.
“On February 18, the military advisor to the NSA, the IB chief, the RAW chief gave five target options to the IAF, three were chosen considering operational aspects in mind,” added the sources.
Interestingly, exercise Vayushakti in Pokharan on February 16 was quickly modified to check the Pakistan radars. “It was found that they were extremely sensitive during operation air show, especially with IAF bases near LoC and the International Border. Hence, Gwalior was chosen as the base to launch air strikes,” the sources said.