New Delhi: The Balakot-based Jaish-e-Mohammad(JeM) terror camp destroyed by the Indian Air Force(IAF) on Tuesday was used for "battle inoculation" and its trainers were retired officers of the Pakistan Army, government sources said.
Located on the banks of Kunhar river in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, the camp was also used by another terror group Hizbul Mujahideen.
The sources said at least 325 terrorists and 25 to 27 trainers were at the camp, the biggest operated by the JeM which had claimed responsibility for the February 14 suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama in Jammu & Kashmir that killed 40 jawans.
The camp also offered aquatic training to its inmates, the sources added.
The camp, located 20 km from the Balakot town, was an important training centre for the JeM and other terror organisations and it had several structures to accommodate new recruits and facilities to train them, the sources said. Several "inspirational lectures" were delivered by JeM founder and terror mastermind Masood Azhar and other terrorist leaders on several occasions.
Masood Azhar's relatives and cadres were trained at Balakot in advanced weapons and tactics and before the inception of JeM, the camp was also used by the Hizbul Mujahideen, the sources said.
Yousuf Azhar, who headed the Balakot camp, is wanted by the CBI in the IC-814 hijacking case with a pending Interpol red corner notice against him since 2000. He is the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar.
In the Balakot camp, the terrorists were imparted the advanced 'Daura-e-Khaas' training in weapons, explosives and field tactics, attack on convoys of security forces, planting and making of IEDs, suicide bombing, rigging vehicles for suicide attacks and survival tactics in high altitudes and extreme-stress situations, the sources said.
The JeM specialises in fidayeen actions and gives immense importance to religious indoctrination and ideological brainwashing, they said.
India struck the Balakot camp in a major "preemptive" air strike killing a large number of terrorists and trainers of the Pakistan-based terror group preparing to carry out suicide attacks in this country.
Giving details of the "intelligence led operation" at a news conference, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said credible intelligence was received that the JeM was planning to carry out other suicide attacks in India after the Pulwama bombing on a CRPF convoy 12 days ago that killed 40 jawans.
"In an intelligence led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot," Gokhale said.
"In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated," he added.