New Delhi: Hours after the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror camp in Pakistan was targeted by the Indian Air Force in the wee hours on Tuesday, the Pakistani Army has begun clearing the evidence from the spot, the Intelligence agencies sources said.
Hundreds of bodies of terrorists have been removed by Pakistani armed forces from the site of the terror attack in Balakot.
As per the sources, the evidence is being cleaned up from the site so as to deny the Indian Army claim of 'killing a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis, who were being trained for fidayeen action, at the camp'.
"In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakote," Foreign Secretary Vijay K. Gokhale told the media earlier today.
He said the "intelligence-led operation" on the Pakistan-based terror group's biggest training camp in Balakot became "absolutely necessary" as it was planning more suicide attacks in India. JeM claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama attack on a CRPF convoy in which 40 soldiers were killed.
Sources told PTI that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has briefed President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu about Tuesday's strike.
"Credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country, and the fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose," Gokhale told the media.
In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became "absolutely necessary", the foreign secretary said.
Addressing the media at 11.30 am, he said the strike had been carried out by a "short while ago" and further details were awaited.
The facility at Balakot, located in a thick forest on a hilltop far away from civilian presence, was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar, alias Ustad Ghouri, the brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar, he said, reading out from a statement.
The statement did not say if Yousuf Azhar was among those killed.
"The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism," the foreign secretary said.
The selection of the target, he said, was conditioned by the desire to avoid civilian casualties. India, Gokhale said, expects Pakistan to dismantle all terror camps, including those of the JeM.
Earlier in the day, government sources said Mirage 2000 combat jets of the Indian Air Force bombed terror camps at multiple locations across the Line of Control in the Pakistani side. They said jets pounded the camps in Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Chakoti.
However, there was no independent confirmation of these reports and Gokhale made it clear that only one camp was struck in Balakot without mentioning the Mirage 2000 jets.
The JeM has been active in Pakistan for the last two decades and has its headquarters in Bahawalpur in Pakistan's Punjab province, Gokhale said in the statement.
He pointed out that the organization is prescribed by the UN and has been responsible for a series of terrorist attacks, including on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and the Pathankot airbase in January 2016.
(With PTI inputs)