Global cyber centre questions “success” of Balakot air strikes

New Delhi: Analysis of commercially available satellite imagery by the International Cyber Policy Centre in Australia has questioned the government’s claim that the strikes on Balakot were successful. According to Nathan Ruser, the author of the report, “Satellite imagery, acquired by Planet Labs Inc. on the morning of February 27 and accessed by ASPI” calls the government of India’s claim “into question”.
“No evidence of damage to the facility or nearby areas is visible on the images,” the report says. Mr Ruser also mentions that local media have published “multiple small craters in the vicinity” indicating that the IAF missed its targets.
Senior officials NDTV has spoken to have categorically denied that the Spice 2000 glide bombs missed. They say the craters being reported could be areas where terrorists from the camps train with Improvised Explosive Devices. They add that the Spice 2000 would not have left craters if they had struck these areas. Instead, they would have left mounds of earth since they are designed to penetrate their target before exploding underground.
NDTV has also been shown a non-classified satellite image of a target in the Indian Air Force’s test range in the Pokhran desert once it was hit by a Spice 2000 bomb in September, 2016. The structure, shown and circled below, has a small hole on its roof, the entry point of the weapon. A similar point of entry will be visible, according to officials, in the satellite imagery of the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp.
Earlier today, in an article in The Print, the award-winning journalist Taha Siddiqui has reported the emergence of an audio recording on February 28, two days after the strikes, at an event of the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Peshawar. The group “goes on to acknowledge that Indian forces did carry out an airstrike and dropped bombs on their markaz (centre) in Balakot where he claims students were learning about the duty of jihad.” The Jaish claims no one died in the attacks.
Francesca Marino, an independent journalist, who has reported extensively in Pakistan, has reported that “eyewitnesses present at the site of India’s 26 February bomb strikes against a Jaish-e-Muhammad base say they saw up to 35 bodies being transported out of the site by ambulance hours after the attack.”
These contradict several other reports including in The New York Times which said “The view that little had been damaged was supported by military analysts and two Western security officials, who said that any militant training areas at the site, in the Pakistani province of Khyber-Pakhtunkwha, had long since dispersed.”
Earlier, government sources had told reporters that about 300 terrorists had likely been eliminated in the attack on the Jaish camp. However, in a joint press conference on February 28, Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor said it was premature to assess the damage and the number of casualties.