Although very little information is available about the damage caused by Indian airstrike on terror camps in Pakistan, now some media houses have started reporting that Jaish‑e‑Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar may have died.
On the early hours of 26th February, Indian Air Force had bombed Jaish terror camps in Balakot, Pakistan. Pakistan had confirmed the strike, but had said that the bombs fell on a forest nearby and it did not hit any building only one villager was injured. The airstrike was done in response to Pulwama terror attack by a Jaish suicide bomber on February 14th, which had killed 40 CRPF personnel. It was reported that Indian Air Force had used 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets to conduct the airstrike, along with one Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft and one Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for support functions. One Pakistani minister had confirmed the presence of 14 aircraft in the operation, adding that 4 was involved in the bombing, while others were in standby.
According to an unconfirmed report by Times Now, Maulana Masood Azhar was present in the JeM headquarters when it was hit by Indian forces, and he has died as a consequence of the same.
Reports suggest that Maulana Masood Azhar is dead. | Reports yet to be confirmed. | Pradeep Dutta shares details. pic.twitter.com/GXz9ylIKwq
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) March 3, 2019
Times Now noted that although Masood has died due to the airstrike, Pakistan will try to say that he has died due to illness. Just after the Indian airstrike, reports had emerged from Pakistan that Masood is suffering from renal failure and his disease was in an advanced stage. Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said that Masood is very unwell and he can’t leave his house.
As reports of Azhar being ill had emerged only after the Indian strike, some people had speculated that Azhar may have died in the strike, but Pakistan was preparing the ground to inform that he has died due to illness, that’s why news of his kidney disease news was circulated.
#BreakingNews : भारत ने जहां बम गिराए, वहां आतंकी मसूद मौजूद था – सूत्र
— Zee News Hindi (@ZeeNewsHindi) March 3, 2019
And just like those speculations, some reports suggest the Masood Azhar had died due to illness, but the disease reported this time is liver cancer. According to CNN News 18, he died on March 2, and it will be formally announced by the Pakistan government after confirmation is received from Army Hospital.
#BREAKING: Reports suggest Maulana Masood Azhar is dead, he died on March 2. To be formally announced after intimation from Army hospital, Islamabad: Top Intel Sources. Input: @manojkumargupta, @Zakka_Jacob with more details
CNN-News18 is trying to independently verify the news pic.twitter.com/ntFVMBPvFF
— News18 (@CNNnews18) March 3, 2019
Although several media houses have reported that Azhar has died, all of them are speculative reports and at present no confirmed information is available. This can also be misinformation spread by Pakistan also to divert attention from its lack of action on terror groups operating from the country. One can perhaps imagine why Pakistan would want to spread misinformation. If the news of the death of their chief terrorist gains traction, they can easily skirt the responsibility of acting against terror while continuing to bleed India with a thousand cuts. The real picture would hopefully emerge when and if Indian authorities choose to comment on the speculations.