Reuters report says JeM camp in Balakot intact; releases satellite image

balakot-reuters A cropped version of a satellite image shows a close-up of a madrasa near Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, March 4, 2019 | Planet Labs Inc./Handout via Reuters

High-resolution satellite images produced by San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc. and reviewed by news agency Reuters have showed that the madrasa run by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in northeastern Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province appears to be still standing, days after India claimed that the Indian Air Force strike had hit the Islamist group’s training camp and killed a large number of militants.

However, India has not officially revealed the site targeted by the IAF or any evidence of the strike. 

No high-resolution satellite images were made public until now. But the Planet Labs Inc. satellite images, released by Reuters, give a clearer look at the structures which the government claimed it had attacked. The Reuters report suggests that the satellite images are detailed to 72cm (28 inches).

The report, which drew a comparison of the same spot from an April 2018 image, said that the facility remains unchanged. "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 report said.

The report also quotes Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who has 15 years of experience in analysing satellite images of weapons sites and systems, saying “the high-resolution images don’t show any evidence of bomb damage”.

“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. I just don’t see that here,” the Reuters report quotes Lewis as saying.

Last week, Reuters claimed to have done extensive interviews with people in the surrounding area, but found no evidence of a destroyed camp or any casualties.

“No one died. Only some pine trees died, they were cut down. A crow also died,” said Abdur Rasheed, a van driver who works in the area, to Reuters.

Pakistan military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor had earlier said that there was no damage to any infrastructure after the Indian air strike. He had said that the Indian jets dropped their bombs on a largely empty hillside after "facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force".

In India, opposition parties have asked the BJP government to produce evidence of the success of the air strike.

However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accused the opposition parties of helping India’s enemies by demanding evidence of the attacks. "When the country needed to speak in one voice, 21 opposition parties gathered in Delhi to adopt a resolution condemning us. They are demanding proof from the armed forces for their act of bravery," Modi said at a rally on Sunday.

BJP president Amit Shah, on Sunday, claimed that 250 terrorists were killed in the IAF strike. "We can understand that you do not have the courage of Modi ji, but if you cannot support and praise what Modi ji and the armed forces did, then at least keep quiet," said Shah.