Indian Jets Strike on Pakistani Side of Kashmir Line
NEW DELHI — Indian warplanes conducted airstrikes in the Pakistan-controlled side of Kashmir on Tuesday, Pakistani officials said, in an escalation of tensions between the nuclear-armed nations after a suicide bombing against Indian troops in the disputed region this month.
If confirmed, it would be the first time that Indian aircraft had crossed the Kashmir Line of Control to strike in years. But it was unclear what, if anything, the attack jets hit on the Pakistani side, raising the possibility that India was making a calculated bet to assuage public anger but minimize the risk of a major Pakistani military response.
A spokesman for Pakistan’s armed forces, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, on Tuesday posted on Twitter four images of a forested area pockmarked with small craters and debris, which he said was the site of Indian airstrikes.
The Indian Foreign Ministry confirmed in a news briefing that a strike had occurred but would give no further details. The Indian news media, quoting local military officials, said Indian Mirage 2000 fighter jets dropped bombs on a “terrorist camp” in Pakistan-controlled territory at 3:30 a.m. local time.
No casualties or damage were reported, General Ghafoor said. The planes dropped the bombs near Balakot, which is close to the disputed border of India and Pakistan.
“Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot,” General Ghafoor wrote.
Tensions have escalated in the Kashmir Valley since Feb. 14 attack by a suicide bomber who drove an explosive-filled vehicle into a convoy of Indian troops. At least 40 soldiers were killed, the deadliest attack in the region in decades. India blamed Pakistan for the assault.
Though India and Pakistan routinely shell each other across what is known as the Line of Control, this is the first time in years that either side has deployed warplanes to venture into disputed territory.
Western security officials have raised questions about the existence of a large-scale training camp, saying that Pakistan no longer runs such camps and that militant groups are spread out in small groups around the country.