India launches airstrike in Pakistan territory, raising stakes in already tense Kashmir region

PHOTO: People holding national flags and an Indian Air Force flag salute to celebrate Indian airstrikes on militant camps in Pakistani territory, Feb. 26, 2019, in Ahmedabad, India.PlayAmit Dave/Reuters
WATCH Across the Pond: Escalation in the India-Pakistan conflict

India announced Tuesday it launched airstrikes against a terrorist group in a Pakistani territory in response to a suicide bomb that killed 40 armed police in Kashmir last week, a move that marks an increase in tensions between India and Pakistan.

While the Indian foreign secretary claimed in a statement on Monday that a "very large number" of terrorists had been killed, the effectiveness of the attack has been refuted by Pakistan.

The spokesperson for the Pakistani military claimed on Twitter there had been no casualties, as the aircraft were apparently successfully scrambled after arriving in Pakistan's territory.

PHOTO: Map shows the location of Balakot, Pakistan, where authorities say an Indian aircraft crossed the border and dropped bombs. AP
Map shows the location of Balakot, Pakistan, where authorities say an Indian aircraft crossed the border and dropped bombs.

The Indian government claims Pakistan has been harboring members of the militant organization Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM), who claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in Kashmir last week, according to the AFP.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied they have harbored the militant group.

"In an intelligence led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot," Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in a statement. "In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis … were eliminated."

"The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism," he added. "Hence this non-military preemptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp. The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties."

PHOTO: People celebrate reports of Indian aircraft bombing Pakistan territory, in New Delhi, India, Feb. 26, 2019. Pakistan says Indian aircraft crossed into its territory in the latest escalation between the nuclear-armed rivals. Altaf Qadri/AP
People celebrate reports of Indian aircraft bombing Pakistan territory, in New Delhi, India, Feb. 26, 2019. Pakistan says Indian aircraft crossed into its territory in the latest escalation between the nuclear-armed rivals.

However, the spokesperson for the Pakistan Armed Forces, Major General Asif Ghafoor, quickly refuted those claims.

"Indian aircrafts intruded from Muzafarabad sector," Ghafoor posted on Twitter. "Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot. No casualties or damage."

Ghafoor also posted a number of pictures allegedly showing damage caused by the attack -- which appeared to show limited damage in a rural area.

PHOTO: Pakistani protesters burn an Indian national flag in Peshawar on Feb. 26, 2019, following the Indian Air Force strike. Abdul Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistani protesters burn an Indian national flag in Peshawar on Feb. 26, 2019, following the Indian Air Force strike.

The foray into Pakistan's airspace represents the latest increase in tension between the two nuclear powers with regards to the historically contested region of Kashmir.

In response, the Pakistani government issued a strong rebuttal to the attack and have summoned the Indian acting high commissioner after a major National Security Committee meeting on Monday.

A meeting of The National Command Authority, the body responsible for Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, has been scheduled for tomorrow.

PHOTO: Damage at the site where Indian military aircraft released payload in Balakot, Pakistan, Feb. 26, 2019, a photo released by the Pakistan military. Pakistans Inter-Services Public Relations via Reuters
Damage at the site where Indian military aircraft released payload in Balakot, Pakistan, Feb. 26, 2019, a photo released by the Pakistan military.

Pakistan's acting foreign secretary condemned the incursion as "Indian violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity" in a statement issued by the Foreign Office.

"The Acting Foreign Secretary categorically stated that Indian aggression was a threat to regional peace and stability and would get a befitting response by Pakistan at a time and place of its choosing," the statement, obtained by ABC News, added.