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'Where was Pak F-16 shot down? What happened in Balakot?' Congress again raises 'Saboot' bogey (WATCH)

Despite government and armed forces' assertions, Congress once again questions the authenticity of India shooting down a Pakistani F-16 aircraft during the retaliatory airstrikes post the Pulwama attack in 2019.

Where was Pak F-16 shot down? What happened in Balakot? Congress again raises 'Saboot' bogey in Parliament
First Published Feb 5, 2024, 5:59 PM IST

The Congress party once again found itself staring at controversy after it sought 'Saboot' of the Balakot airstrikes in Parliament. Despite repeated statements from the Narendra Modi government and the Indian Armed Forces, the Congress still doubts whether India did actually shoot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter aircraft.

Casting aspersions on the Indian armed forces and the airstrikes carried out in retaliation to the Pulwama attack took place on February 26, 2019, Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "You said we are carrying out airstrikes. You created a frenzy across the country. But after that we did not receive any information. We saw our MiG-21 crashing there (Pakistan). We saw one of our helicopters go down, in which we lost six-seven personnel. We were told that a Pakistani F-16 was shot down. We don't know where. We still do not know the truth of what really happened in Balakot. At the same time, international agencies said that there were no major consequences."

The Balakot Story

In a tragic incident on February 14, a suicide bomber affiliated with Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) targeted a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in the loss of 40 CRPF personnel. The attack marked the first instance of a suicide bomber using an explosives-laden vehicle against a CRPF convoy, employing approximately 80kg of explosives.

In retaliation to the Pulwama terror attack, Indian warplanes crossed the de facto border in Kashmir on February 26. The planes dropped bombs near the town of Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, targeting a JeM camp. The operation aimed to avenge the deaths of the CRPF personnel.

An official statement from the External Affairs Ministry revealed that the strike in Balakot resulted in the elimination of a significant number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders, and groups undergoing training for fidayeen action. The camp, led by Maulana Yousuf Azhar (alias Ustad Ghouri), the brother-in-law of JeM Chief Masood Azhar, was specifically targeted.

On February 27, the Indian Air Force (IAF) thwarted an attempt by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to strike military installations in Jammu and Kashmir. In the aerial engagement, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, flying a MiG-21 Bison, successfully shot down a more advanced PAF F-16. Despite his aircraft being hit, Varthaman ejected and landed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where he was captured by the Pakistan Army.

Following international pressure, Pakistan released Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman two days later, and he returned to India amidst a hero's welcome. This series of events underscored the tense military confrontations and diplomatic dynamics between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack.

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