Pakistan shot down two Indian jets inside its airspace, government claims

NEWS 27.02.2019 09:32
Source: REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

The government of Pakistan says its air force shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace on Wednesday after the Indian Air Force crossed the line of control -- the de facto border between the two countries in disputed Kashmir.

If confirmed, it would mark a major escalation of hostilities between the two nuclear-armed powers.

Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, the spokesperson for the Pakistan armed forces, said in a tweet Wednesday that one Indian aircraft fell inside Pakistan-administered Kashmir, while another fell within the Indian-administered region of Kashmir. One pilot had been arrested, he said.

A post from the official Twitter account of the Pakistan government confirmed that its air force had shot down the two planes, following strikes conducted by Pakistan.

There has not been an official comment from the Indian Air Force or government, and CNN could not independently verify Pakistan's claims.

Meanwhile, a statement from the Pakistan Foreign Ministry said that Pakistan carried out aerial strikes on “nonmilitary targets” across the line of control (LoC) from within Pakistani airspace while accusing India of “carrying out acts of terror in Pakistan.”

The alleged strike comes a day after India launched its own airstrikes on an alleged terrorist training camp inside Pakistan territory, the first such incursion by Indian Air Force planes across the border between the two countries since the India-Pakistan war of 1971.

Pakistan said its strike was “not a retaliation” to the Indian operation and stressed that “Pakistan has, therefore, taken strikes at a nonmilitary target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage.”

“Sole purpose being to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defence. We have no intention of escalation but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm. That is why we undertook the action with a clear warning and in broad daylight,” the statement said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had previously promised retaliation “at the time and place of Pakistan's choosing” and directed the country's armed forces to remain prepared for all eventualities in response to the Indian strikes.

‘Further escalation’

Earlier on Wednesday, Indian Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the country does not want “further escalation” with Pakistan.

Speaking at a foreign ministers’ meeting between Russia, India, and China in Wuzhen, China, on Wednesday, Swaraj said Tuesday's strike was “not a military operation” but “a preemptive strike against the terrorist infrastructure of Jaish-e-Mohammed.”

India blames the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) for a suicide car bomb attack in Indian-administered Kashmir, which killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers on February 14.

India had previously said that Pakistan had a “direct hand” in the attack — the deadliest on security forces since the beginning of the insurgency in the late 1980s. Pakistan has vehemently denied having a role in the incident.

Swaraj said that Tuesday's pre-dawn operation was launched because of the “continuing refusal of Pakistan to acknowledge and act against terror groups on its territory.”

The military action was based on “credible information” that militants were planning other attacks in various parts of the country, Swaraj said.

In its Foreign Ministry statement Wednesday, Pakistan said that “India has been trying to establish what they call ‘a new normal’ a thinly veiled term for doing acts of aggression at whatever pretext they wish on a given day. If India is striking at so-called terrorist backers without a shred of evidence, we also retain reciprocal rights to retaliate against elements that enjoy Indian patronage while carrying out acts of terror in Pakistan.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with his counterparts in India and Pakistan and urged both sides to “exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost.”

“I also encouraged both ministers to prioritize direct communication and avoid further military activity,” he said Wednesday, in the first statement by the US government over the incident.

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