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From Indian airstrike to Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman's release: A timeline of events

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From Indian airstrike to Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman's release: A timeline of events

On Feb 27, the IAF radars detected a large package of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) aircraft heading towards the Indian territory towards general area Jhangar. They breached the Indian airspace west of Rajouri in Sunderbani area.

Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, captured by Pakistan two days ago after his MiG 21 Bison crashed inside Pakistan, returned to India on Friday. The IAF pilot reached the Wagah-Attari border at around 9:15 pm and was whisked from the Joint Check Post (JCP) complex under tight security to the Amritsar International Airport for Delhi.

The Friday events were part of the tensions that had developed between the two countries after a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) anchored suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on February 14. At least 40 CRPF personnel were killed in the terror attack.

In retaliation, India, at around 3:30 am on February 26, carried out airstrikes on a number of terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan. The airstrike was also aimed at a Jaish camp in Pakistan's Balakot.

Pakistan condemned the breach of the Line of Control and also warned India of a "surprise".

PAKISTAN BREACHES INDIAN AIRSPACE

On Feb 27 at around 10:00 hours, the IAF radars detected a large package of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) aircraft heading towards the Indian territory towards general area Jhangar. They breached the Indian airspace west of Rajouri in Sunderbani area. The ingressing aircraft were observed to be at various levels.

INDIAN RETALIATION

Following which, Indian Air Force fighters including MiG-21 Bison, Su-30 MKI, Mirage-2000 were tasked to intercept the PAF aircraft.

The PAF aircraft attempting to target military installations were intercepted by IAF fighter aircraft that thwarted their plans. Eventually, the PAF jets were chased away from the Indian airspace. While fleeing the Indian territory, the Pakistani jets dropped bombs at various places including the Indian Army formation compound.

The bombs, however, did not cause any damage to the military installations.
In the aerial combat that ensued following the Pakistan's violation of the Indian airspace, one F-16 of PAF was shot down by an IAF MiG-21 Bison. The F-16 crashed and fell across the LOC in POJ&K.

PAKISTAN RELEASES CAPTURED PILOT'S VIDEO

The IAF lost one MiG-21 in the aerial engagement and though the pilot ejected safely, his parachute drifted into POJ&K where he was taken into custody by the Pakistan Army. Later, Pakistan also released a video of the captured pilot.

There have been many factually incorrect statements that have been made by Pakistan, the Indian Air Force in a "Diary of Events" Facebook post said.

As per the Indian Air Force, the factually incorrect statements from Pakistan include, "(a) The First blatant disinformation was that two IAF aircraft were shot down by Pakistan and three pilots were downed. This figure was later revised downwards to two IAF aircraft and two pilots. The fact however, is that the Indian Army units had reported sighting two parachutes falling in the POJ&K which were of two F-16 pilots shot down by the IAF MiG-21 Bison. Later in the evening, Pakistan changed its statement to say that one Indian pilot was in their custody. Therefore, it was only by late evening that Pakistan accepted the fact."

"(b) Pakistan claimed that they intentionally dropped weapons in open space where there was no human presence or military posts. The fact is that the PAF aircraft targetted military installations. However, they were intercepted by the IAF fighter aircraft that thwarted their plans."

"(c) Pakistan also stated that no F-16s were used in the operation and no Pakistani plane was downed by Indian Air Force. There is enough evidence to show that F-16s were used in this mission and Pakistan is trying to hide this fact. Also, parts of AMRAAM Air to Air Missile which is carried only on the F-16s in PAF were recovered East of Rajouri within the Indian territory. Therefore, the fact remains that one F-16 of PAF was shot down by an IAF MiG-21 Bison aircraft."

The Indian Air Force said, "In response to the counter terrorist strike by the Indian Air Force, the Pakistan Army first resorted to unprovoked ceasefire violations in Sundarbani, Bhimbar Gali, Naushera and Krishna Ghati Sectors on Feb 26, with effect from 5: 00 pm and again during the night. This was responded to by the Indian Army in a befitting and appropriate manner."

It also said that on Feb 27, the Pakistan Air Force attempted to target military establishments in J&K. They specifically targetted a Bde [Brigade] headquarters, a Bn [Battalion] headquarters, forward defences and a Lgs [Logistics] installation.

"However, given the high level of preparedness along the Line of Control and the immediate and punitive response by own forces, the Pakistan Air Force's designs were foiled."

It concluded by saying that the Indian Air Force continues to maintain strict vigil along the Line of Control and the IB [International Border] sector.

"Our Ground Based Air Defence Weapon Systems have been put on alert on all along the Line of Control and some parts of the IB. I wish to assure the nation that we are fully prepared and in a heightened state of readiness to respond to any provocation by Pakistan. Despite the present turn of events, the Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the region and will continue to act against agencies who harbour inimical designs against India and citizens of our country."