Pakistan denies journalists access to JeM madrasa in Balakot targeted in IAF strikes, claims air attacks caused no damage

The Pakistan security officials guarding the way to the site cited “security concerns” for denying access. They stuck to the Pakistani government’s position ever since the Indian attack on 26 February that no damage was caused to any buildings and there was no loss of life.

Reuters March 10, 2019 13:15:49 IST
Pakistan denies journalists access to JeM madrasa in Balakot targeted in IAF strikes, claims air attacks caused no damage
  • Pakistani security officials prevented a Reuters team from climbing a hill in northeastern Pakistan to the site of the JeM madrasa reportedly shot down in the IAF air strikes

  • The Pakistani security officials guarding the way to the site cited security concerns for denying access

  • High-resolution satellite images reviewed by Reuters on Wednesday showed the madrasa appears to be standing, virtually unchanged

Jaba: Pakistani security officials on Thursday prevented a Reuters team from climbing a hill in northeastern Pakistan to the site of a madrasa and a group of surrounding buildings that was targeted by Indian warplanes last week.

It is the third time in the past nine days that Reuters reporters have visited the area — and each time the path up to what villagers say was a religious school run at one time by militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and what the Indian government says was a “terrorist” training camp — was blocked.

India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said on the day of the strike that it had killed “a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, trainers, senior commanders, and groups of jihadis” at the alleged training camp.

Pakistan denies journalists access to JeM madrasa in Balakot targeted in IAF strikes claims air attacks caused no damage

A building, which residents claim is a madrasa, near to the site of IAF's air strikes in Balakot, Pakistan. Reuters

The Pakistani security officials guarding the way to the site cited “security concerns” for denying access. They stuck to the Pakistani government’s position ever since the Indian attack on 26 February that no damage was caused to any buildings and there was no loss of life.

In Islamabad, the military’s press wing has twice called off visits to the site for weather and organisational reasons and an official said no visit would be possible for a few days more due to security issues.

The Reuters team could view the madrasa from 100 metres away and only from below. The building that reporters could see was surrounded by undamaged pine trees, and did not show any signs of damage or activity but given the view, the assessment is very limited.

High-resolution satellite images reviewed by Reuters on Wednesday showed the madrasa appears to be standing, virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility.

“That used to be the madrasa but it is no longer active,” said one villager, pointing at the white building on top of one of the many hills surrounding Jaba.The site matched the coordinates of the satellite images.

Villagers told Reuters the school was no longer operational. “It was shut down in June last year,” said one, who asked not to be identified.

On previous visits, a number of residents have said the madrasa was run by Jaish-e-Mohammed. A sign with the group’s name had previously stood near the site but was later removed.

Another man, Mohammad Naseem, said there were madrasas in the area, opened during the rule of General Zia-ul-Haq, whose Islamisation policies during his 1977-1988 rule are largely seen as bringing radicalisation to Pakistan, but “there is no madrasa or anything like that here anymore”.

“They say they killed 300 people but they didn’t even get 300 trees,” one soldier posted at the site of the Indian attack said.

“Thank God they didn’t destroy the four or five homes that are here.”

Updated Date:

Subscribe to Moneycontrol Pro at ₹499 for the first year. Use code PRO499. Limited period offer. *T&C apply

also read

Umar Akmal says he did not report spot-fixing approach as it would not remain confidential
First Cricket News

Umar Akmal says he did not report spot-fixing approach as it would not remain confidential

Umar Akmal was initially banned for three years from all cricket activities last year for not reporting approaches made to him for spot-fixing in PSL. The Court of Arbitration for Sports has reduced the ban to 12 months.

India-Pakistan 'ceasefire agreement' will achieve nothing beyond excitable commentary in media
India

India-Pakistan 'ceasefire agreement' will achieve nothing beyond excitable commentary in media

The tactical step of a limited agreement that seeks only to calm the borders and lessen shelling and artillery exchanges has been imbued with such lofty goals that the move is likely to get crushed under the weight of expectations

Imran Khan to seek trust vote from Pakistan’s National Assembly this week following defeat in Senate polls
World

Imran Khan to seek trust vote from Pakistan’s National Assembly this week following defeat in Senate polls

The Pakistan prime minister alleged that some lawmakers from the Tehreek-e-Insaf had been bribed by the Opposition to vote for Yusuf Raza Gilani