Balakot in Mansehra district of Pakistan, which was not just used as a training ground for over 10,000 recruits at a time, but also has several madrassas, masjids and control rooms, emerged as one of the Jaish-e-Mohammed’s largest military training centres in 2001. The centre was one of the terror camps struck by the Indian Air Force early on Tuesday. JeM chief Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar are said to be supervising these camps.
The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly blast of 2001 too was planned in Balakot, according to investigators. There have been a number of inputs about activities being planned and operatives trained at Balakot, especially for ‘fidayeen‘ attacks across India, sources close to intelligence said.
A strategic location lying in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province just outside the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Balakot not only has control rooms and centres especially designed to train operatives in suicide attacks, but also madrassas for students, an intelligence source said.
The camp in Balakot is called Madrasah Sayyed Ahmad Shaheed and was built after generous funding to Masood Azhar by several trusts, including the Al Rahmat Trust, a second source said.
Before 2001, the Jaish had its training camps in Afghanistan, due to its closeness to the Taliban.
Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI was responsible for the relocation of the Jaish. Due to its strong hold in Pakistan, the Lashkar-e-Taiba did not want the Jaish to eat into the LeT’s space. Hence, relocated it to Manshera district, which lies closer to PoK.