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Pakistan

Web Desk
March 6, 2019

Latest US satellite images bust Indian claim of hitting JeM seminary in Balakot

Pakistan

Web Desk
Wed, Mar 06, 2019

NEW DELHI/SINGAPORE: High-resolution satellite images reviewed by UK news agency show that a religious school purportedly run by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in northeastern Pakistan appears to be still standing days after India claimed its warplanes had hit the training camp on the site and killed a large number of militants.

The images produced by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, show at least six buildings on the madrasa site on March 4, six days after the airstrike, a Reuters report says.

Until now, no high-resolution satellite images were publicly available. But the images from Planet Labs, which show details as small as 72 cm (28 inches), offer a clearer look at the structures the Indian government said it attacked.

The image, it said, is virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility. There are no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrasa or other signs of an aerial attack.

The images cast further doubt on statements made over the last eight days by the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the raids, early on Feb. 26, had hit all the intended targets at the madrasa site near Jaba village and the town of Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

India’s foreign and defence ministries did not reply to Reuters questions sent in the past few days seeking comment on what is shown in the satellite images and whether they undermine its official statements on the airstrikes.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who has 15 years’ experience in analysing satellite images of weapons sites and systems, confirmed that the high-resolution satellite picture showed the structures in question.

“The high-resolution images don’t show any evidence of bomb damage,” he said. Lewis viewed three other high-resolution Planet Labs pictures of the site taken within hours of the image provided to Reuters.

The images also endorsed what Pakistan has been saying since India’s botch operation that the bombs fell in an empty area and no structure was hit.

The Indian government told Reuters last week that 12 Mirage 2000 jets carrying 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs) bombs carried out the attack. On Tuesday, a defence official said the aircraft used the 2,000-lb Israeli-made SPICE 2000 glide bomb in the strike.

A warhead of that size is meant to destroy hardened targets such as concrete shelters.

Lewis and Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation studies who also analyses satellite images, said weapons that large would have caused obvious damage to the structures visible in the picture.

“If the strike had been successful, given the information we have about what kind of munitions were used, I would expect to see signs that the buildings had been damaged,” Lewis added. “I just don’t see that here.”