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Pakistan Restricts Media For The Third Time In 9 Days From Visiting The Area Targeted By IAF

HARSH RANJAN | 0
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| March 8 , 2019 , 18:46 IST

Pakistani security officials on Thursday restricted a Reuters team from climbing a hill in northeastern Pakistan to the site of a madrasa and a group of surrounding buildings that were bombed by Indian Fighter jets last week.

It is the third time in the past nine days that Reuters reporters have visited the area and they have been restricted to visit the targeted area.

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.

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 Air Force conducted air strikes in Balakot on February 26. Islamabad has since then maintained 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"That used to be the madrasa but it is no longer active," said one villager, pointing at the white building on top of one of the many hills surrounding Jaba.

ALSO READ: Satellite Images Show JeM Madrasa Buildings Still Standing At Balakot: Reuters Report

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.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has lodged an FIR against an unknown IAF Pilot for destroying around 15 Pine trees.

Pakistan may raise the issue of Indian air strikes at the UN assembly calling it ‘eco-terrorism’. The air strikes carried on February 26 have allegedly damaged around 15 pine trees.