New Delhi: With the Indian Air Force bombing three major Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM ) hideouts in Pakistan on Tuesday while terming it a ‘non military pre-emptive air strike’, one question looms large- Why did India choose to attack Balakot, which is 80 km from the LoC?

In a pre-dawn strike, 12 IAF Mirage 2000 jets dropped six 1,000 kg laser-guided bombs in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s (PoK) Muzaffarabad, Chakoti areas and Balakot region in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Soon after New Delhi claimed that the 21-minute long air strike killed nearly 300 terrorists.

But why Balakot?

Balakot, a town nearly 80 km from the Line of Control is known as the ‘epicenter of terrorism’ in the intelligence circle. It has been on the United States’ radar for a long time for its proximity with Abbottabad- the town where the American forces killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Many reports say that not only Jaish but several terror groups have their training camps based out of Balakot. JeM is believed to have chosen Balakot as one of its operational bases due to its significant past with the Taliban. Taliban was routed from Balakot in 2001.

“In an intelligence lead operation in the early hours today, India struck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commander and jihadis were eliminated,” India’s foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said at a briefing after the air strikes.

Another major reason, reports suggest is that the Balakot’s camp was run by Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law Maulana Ayusuf alias Ustad Ghauri.

Hundreds of Jaish terrorists and their trainers were shifted from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir to a five-star, resort-style camp in a hilltop forest in Balakot after the Pulwama attack, providing Indian forces with “a sitting duck target” when they carried out an air strike early Tuesday, PTI reported.

The camp that was exterminated by the Indian Air Force on Tuesday was located on a hilltop. The attacks were carried out in Balakot, Chakothi and Muzaffarabad at 3.45 am, 3.48 am and 3.58 am respectively.