India said on Thursday it carried out “surgical strikes” along its de-facto border with Pakistan, taking out several “launchpads”, or temporary shelters, militants were preparing to use to cross over into the country.
Here’s all you need to know about the operation:
The strikes were India’s first direct military response to the attack on the Uri army base earlier this month that killed 18 Indian soldiers and was blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
Thursday’s action is being seen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi following through on his warning that those responsible for the Uri attack “would not go unpunished”. The army had also said it would avenge the attack.
The “surgical strikes” could force militants across the LoC to shift their sanctuaries further back into Pakistani territory, bolstering the image of Indian forces as a capable striking power. Such an image could also help tamp down violence in Kashmir, where two months of street protests over the killing of militant Burhan Wani have left more than 85 people dead.
Special Forces teams had been rehearsing their assault plan for over a week. All forces along the LoC and the Indian Air Force were placed on the highest state of alert. The BSF was put on alert four days ago but was told about the operation just 30 minutes before the assault.
On Wednesday night, some of India’s toughest fighting men — soldiers of the elite Parachute Regiment — were heli-dropped at pre-designated sites on the Indian side of the LoC. They crossed the de facto border on foot, and were stealthy enough to maintain surprise.
The Army said the surgical strikes were carried out to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists who were planning to attack major cities. The intelligence was “specific and credible”. The army picked the targets for the surgical strikes carefully after carrying out 24X7 surveillance of terror launchpads across the LoC.
“They (the strikes) were conducted two-three kilometres across the LoC…Seven launchpads were targeted,” a source said on condition of anonymity.
The strikes aimed at “neutralising the terrorists” had caused “multiple casualties”, officials said.
An official said troops killed militants numbering in the double digits, and that no Indian soldier was killed.
Most of the casualties were “terrorists”, said a source, insisting India had not been targeting the Pakistani army.
An army official based in Kashmir said two Indian soldiers were wounded while returning from the raid – one stepped on a landmine and another was shot.
THE KEY NUMBERS
38: Estimated number of terrorists killed in the launchpads in Pak-occupied Kashmir.
12.30-4.30am: The time taken for the mission.
1-3km: Distance beyond the LoC that the soldiers in the surgical strike had to traverse.
25: The number of soldiers from India’s elite Para regiments who took part in the cross-LoC strike.
7.30am: The Prime Minister’s Office alerted members of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) about the cross-border raids and notifies a meeting at 10am
10am: The CCS, headed by PM Narendra Modi, remained in a huddle till 11.30 am. Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh gives a blow-by-blow account of the action by Special Forces. Anticipating a flare-up, the CCS directed the evacuation of villagers along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir and the International Border in Punjab. Junior minister Jitendra Singh, who hails from Jammu region, was assigned to oversee the civilian evacuation.
12:30am: Barely an hour after the CCS meeting, Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Ranbir Singh announced that the army has conducted surgical strikes against launchpads “along the LoC.” He said “significant casualties were caused to terrorists”.
(With agency inputs)