From Pulwama Attack to the Capture of the Wing Commander Abhinandan – How the Story Unfolded

On February 14 when the world celebrated the day of love, this year, India witnessed one of the worst attacks on its forces.

A suicide bomber driving a vehicle carrying over 300 kg of explosives crashed into a CRPF convoy that resulted in the death of over 40 personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama. This further escalated into the capture of an Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot and his subsequent release by Pakistan later.

As the entire nation waited and rejoiced with the breath of joy to the arrival of IAF braveheart Wing Commander, Abhinandan Varthaman, let us go through a quick recap of the entire Pulwama attack and the things that followed.

February 14 – around 4 pm: Over 40 CRPF personnel were killed in a suicide attack in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on February 14 which was orchestrated by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, also known as JeM.

February 14-15: India and Pakistan exchanged charges regarding who was responsible for the Pulwama attack. India accused Pakistan of the incident which they denied.

February 15: Air Chief Marshal, Birender Singh Dhanoa, presented the proposal of airstrike as a retaliatory response after the bombing in Pulwama and the government cleared the proposal permitting the progress.

February 16-20: The Indian Army and the Airforce conducted airborne surveillance along the Line of Control (LoC) with the help of Heron drones throughout as per information given by various sources.

February 20-22: As per sources, the IAF and intelligence agencies drew up ‘target tables’ for possible sites to strike.

February 21: Our National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, was presented with target options for an airstrike.

February 22: The 1 Squadron ‘Tigers’ and 7 Squadron ‘Battle Axes’ of the Indian Air Force were activated for the strike mission. Two Mirage squadrons designated 12 jets for the mission to be accomplished.

February 24: The trial run was conducted over central India with an early warning jet Bhatinda and a mid-air refueller from Agra before the airstrike.

February 26 – 3:30 am: Twelve days after the Pulwama attack, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out an airstrike in Pakistan on the camps of JeM. India bombed and destroyed Balakot which is considered to be the largest training centre of JeM located in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80-km from the Line of Control (LoC). Twelve Mirage 2000s took off from Gwalior in batches which were armed with laser-guided bombs.

February 26 – 10 am: During a briefing session, our Foreign Secretary, Vijay Gokhale, said that it was the non-military pre-emptive action which was targeted specifically at JeM camp. The training camp was led by Maulana Yusuf Azhar, also known as Ustad Ghauri, who is the Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law.

February 26 – around 12 pm: Indian authorities were confirming the airstrike in Pakistan’s areas of Balakot, Muzafarrabad and Chakoti which were major centres of JeM.

February 26: Pakistan denied the entire attack saying there was nothing as such – no airstrike, no casualties and nothing on their soil were damaged.

February 27 – early morning: Pakistan tried to target Indian military installations, in which they managed to shoot down and destroy an Indian aircraft. As a result, IAF pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, fell on the other side of the LoC and was taken hostage by the Pakistani army. Even at this condition, the IAF pilot, before being captured, had fought downed a Pakistani F-16.

February 27 – throughout the day: There was a state of tension mounted between India and Pakistan. World leaders asked both countries to step back and de-escalate military action.

February 27 – late evening: India demanded Abhinandan’s safe return and, therefore, issued a demarche to Pakistan. As a result of this, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, called for truce and peace in a televised address.

February 28 – around 5.30 pm: Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, gave in to the pressure and announced the release of Abhinandan as a “peace gesture”.

February 28 – late evening: Civilians and politicos of India cheered, celebrated and exchanged sweets on the news of his return.

March 1 – India welcomed Abhinandan with a warm heart and greetings.

This incident that took place on 14 February would always be remembered as a dark day in the history of India innately justifying February 26 as a day of revenge for all Indians.

Image Courtesy: Zee News

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