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Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh pay tributes, salute Indian Air Force on two years of Balakot airstrikes

On the second anniversary of Balakot air strikes, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday saluted the exceptional courage and diligence of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and said “the success of strikes has shown India’s strong will to act against terrorism.”

“On the anniversary of Balakot Air Strikes, I salute the exceptional courage and diligence of the Indian Air Force. The success of Balakot strikes has shown India’s strong will to act against terrorism. We are proud of our Armed Forces who keep India safe and secure,” the Defence Minister tweeted.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the Indian Air Force (IAF) had again made clear the policies of New India against terrorism by responding to the Pulwama terror attack.

“On this day in 2019, the Indian Air Force had again made clear the policies of New India against terrorism by responding to the Pulwama terror attack,” the Home Minister tweeted.

Shah also paid homage to the martyrs of the Pulwama attack and said the country and its soldiers are safe under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I remember the martyrs of the Pulwama attack and salute to the courage of IAF for air strikes. The country and its soldiers are safe under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he tweeted in Hindi.

On February 14, Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) targeted a CRPF convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway near Pulwama in South Kashmir killing 40 CPRF personnel.

Days later IAF launched an air-strike on a JeM camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

The air-strike was launched in the early hours of February 26 and Pakistan’s efforts to launch an offensive the next day to target Indian military installations in Jammu and Kashmir was thwarted by an alert IAF.

In the dogfight, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, flying a MiG-21 Bison fighter plane and chasing Pakistani jets, crossed over to PoK where his aircraft was shot down. He was taken into custody by Pakistan. India also shot down a Pakistani fighter jet.

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Pulwama attack: NIA names JeM chief Azhar, brothers in chargesheet

New Delhi/Jammu: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its chargesheet in the 2019 Pulwama terror attack case has named Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar, his brothers Abdul Rauf Asghar and Ammar Alvi, slain JeM terrorist Mohammad Umar Farooq, suicide bomber Adil Ahmed Dar and other terrorist commanders operating from Pakistan.

These are apart from the six arrested accused in the case.

The NIA has filed a 13,500-page chargesheet in the special NIA court in Jammu along with the pictures and digital evidence of the Pulwama terror attack. An NIA official told IANS: “The agency filed a chargesheet (on Tuesday) against Azhar, Asghar, Alvi, their slain nephew Farooq, six arrested accused, and absconding accused Sameer Dar in the Pulwama terror attack case at a Jammu special NIA court.”

The NIA said that it has also named two Pakistani nationals – Mohammad Kamran and Mohammad Ismail alias Saifuddin, both IED experts. The official said that the agency has prepared a watertight case against the people named in the chargesheet along with all the irrefutable evidence, including their chats and call details to highlight the role of Pakistan in the February 14, 2019 attack in which 40 CRPF troopers were killed.

The official said that this attack was a plot hatched by the Pakistan-based terror group to project the attack as part of the home-grown militancy in Kashmir. The NIA has also accused several top commanders of the terrorist group in its chargesheet.

The agency arrested Mohammad Iqbal Rather, 25, a resident of Budgam, Jammu & Kashmir in July this year. He is accused of facilitating the movement of Farooq, the JeM terrorist and a key conspirator in this case, after he infiltrated into Indian territory in Jammu region in April 2018.

Farooq, along with others, had assembled the IED used in the terror attack. The NIA in its chargesheet accused Farooq, who infiltrated in India, was an IED expert. Farooq along with suicide bomber Adil and absconding terrorist Sameer Dar prepared the IED that was placed in the Maruti car that was used in the terror attack.

Sameer had come out of the car 500 meters away from the attack site. Earlier, the NIA found that Rather was in constant touch with the Pakistan-based leadership of the JeM and was in communication with them over secure messaging applications and was also part of the transportation module of the terrorist organisation.

The other five arrested accused named in the chargesheet are – Shakir Bashir, Mohammad Abbas Rather, Waiz-ul-Islam, and the father-daughter duo of Tariq Ahmad Shah and Insha Jan – all alleged over ground workers of the JeM.

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‘6,500 Pak terrorists among foreign fighters in Afghanistan; LeT, JeM play key role’

New Delhi: There are some 6,500 Pakistani nationals among foreign terrorists operating in Afghanistan and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) play a key role in bringing foreign fighters into the war-torn country, according to a UN report.

The report, from the UN Security Council’s analytical support and sanctions monitoring team and issued late last month, indicated Pakistani terrorists formed a significant part of foreign fighters that pose a serious threat to Afghanistan’s security because of their activities and permanent presence in the country.

Lashkar and Jaish, the report said, have approximately 800 and 200 armed fighters, respectively, co-located with Taliban forces in Mohmand Darah, Dur Baba and Sherzad Districts of Nangarhar Province. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also maintains a presence in Lal Pura District, near the border area of Mohmand Darah, Pakistan, the UNSC team said.

In Kunar Province, the report said, Lashkar retains a further 220 fighters and Jaish has a further 30, all of whom are dispersed within Taliban forces. The UNSC monitoring team said that TTP, Jaish and Lashkar, are present in the eastern provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan, where they operate under the umbrella of the Afghan Taliban.

Even as a number of significant al-Qaeda figures were killed, “the senior leadership of al-Qaeda remains present in Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of armed operatives, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, and groups of foreign terrorist fighters aligned with the Taliban,” the report said.

Relations between the Taliban, especially the Haqqani Network, and al-Qaeda remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage, the UNSC monitoring team said.

The Taliban, the UNSC monitoring team said, also appears well prepared for the 2020 fighting season and raising the tempo of its attacks on Afghan government targets while trying to avoid provoking the United States.

India’s External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “This vindicates India’s long-standing position that Pakistan remains the epicentre of international terrorism. That proscribed terrorist entities and individuals continue to enjoy safe havens and recruit, train, arm, finance and operate with impunity from Pakistan with state support. They inflict violence and spread terrorism in the region and other parts of the world.”

The report also highlighted the presence of Pakistani terrorists in the Islamic State’s Khorasan chapter, such as commander Abdullah Orakzai alias Aslam Farooqi, who was captured with 21 others in Kandahar in March. Twelve Pakistani nationals were captured along with Farooqi.

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