You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

No access to Pakistan religious school that India says it bombed

Reuters logo Reuters 08-03-2019 By Saad Sayeed
a train going through a forest: A general view of a building, which according to residents was a madrasa is seen near the site where Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot © Reuters/AKHTAR SOOMRO A general view of a building, which according to residents was a madrasa is seen near the site where Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot

Pakistani security officials on Thursday prevented a Reuters team from climbing a hill in northeastern Pakistan to the site of a madrasa and a group of surrounding buildings that was targeted by Indian warplanes last week.

a man standing on a rocky hill: Pakistan's army soldier guards the area, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot © Reuters/AKHTAR SOOMRO Pakistan's army soldier guards the area, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot

It is the third time in the past nine days that Reuters reporters have visited the area – and each time the path up to what villagers say was a religious school run at one time by militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and what the Indian government says was a "terrorist" training camp - was blocked.

a man walking down a dirt road: Pakistan's army soldiers guard the area, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot © Reuters/AKHTAR SOOMRO Pakistan's army soldiers guard the area, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot

India's Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said on the day of the strike that it had killed "a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, trainers, senior commanders, and groups of jihadis" at the alleged training camp.

Complete coverage: India-Pakistan tensions

The Pakistani security officials guarding the way to the site cited "security concerns" for denying access. They stuck to the Pakistani government's position ever since the Indian attack on Feb. 26 that no damage was caused to any buildings and there was no loss of life.

In Islamabad, the military's press wing has twice called off visits to the site for weather and organizational reasons and an official said no visit would be possible for a few days more due to security issues.

The Reuters team could view the madrasa from 100 meters away and only from below. The building that reporters could see was surrounded by undamaged pine trees, and did not show any signs of damage or activity but given the view, the assessment is very limited.

a tree in a forest: A general view of the damaged trees, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot © Reuters/AKHTAR SOOMRO A general view of the damaged trees, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot

High-resolution satellite images reviewed by Reuters on Wednesday showed the madrasa appears to be standing, virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility.

Download the Microsoft News app for your Android or iPhone device and get news & live updates on the go. Read more News in English and Hindi.

"That used to be the madrasa but it is no longer active," said one villager, pointing at the white building on top of one of the many hills surrounding Jaba.

The site matched the coordinates of the satellite images.

a person walking down a dirt road in a forest: Pakistan's army soldier walks near the damaged trees, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot © Reuters/AKHTAR SOOMRO Pakistan's army soldier walks near the damaged trees, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot

Villagers told Reuters the school was no longer operational.

"It was shut down in June last year," said one, who asked not to be identified.

On previous visits, a number of residents have said the madrasa was run by Jaish-e-Mohammed. A sign with the group's name had previously stood near the site but was later removed.

a pile of dirt in a rocky area: Pakistan's army soldier stands at the edge of a crater, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot © Reuters/AKHTAR SOOMRO Pakistan's army soldier stands at the edge of a crater, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot

Another man, Mohammad Naseem, said there were madrasas in the area, opened during the rule of General Zia-ul-Haq, whose Islamisation policies during his 1977-1988 rule are largely seen as bringing radicalization to Pakistan, but "there is no madrasa or anything like that here anymore".

a pile of dirt in a rocky area: Pakistan's army soldier stands at the edge of a crater, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot © Reuters/AKHTAR SOOMRO Pakistan's army soldier stands at the edge of a crater, after Indian military aircrafts struck on February 26, according to Pakistani officials, in Jaba village, near Balakot

"They say they killed 300 people but they didn't even get 300 trees," one soldier posted at the site of the Indian attack said.

"Thank God they didn't destroy the four or five homes that are here."

Photos: 2019 Pulwama attack - A timeline

Watch: Pakistan's flip-flop on Jaish-e-Mohammed

Replay Video

(Video by NDTV)

More From Reuters

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon