Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s military has taken a group of international journalists and diplomats on a tour of the site of the Indian air attacks in the northern town of Jaba, including the first-ever visit allowed to a school affiliated with the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) armed group that India said it had been targeting in the attack.
The group of journalists – mostly flown in from the Indian capital, New Delhi – and diplomats based in Islamabad was flown to Jaba, about 100km north of the capital Islamabad, by helicopter on Wednesday, a military statement said.
The group was shown the sites where bombs from a February 26 air attack by the Indian Air Force hit on a mostly uninhabited mountainside in the remote northern area, a military action that heightened tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours and saw Pakistan launch retaliatory attacks a day later.
India claims it hit a JeM training camp in the area, killing “a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis”, according to a foreign ministry statement released shortly after the attacks.
Pakistan disputed the claim, saying four Indian bombs hit a forest, lightly wounding a farmer and damaging his home and fields.
An Al Jazeera visit to the site of the air raids a day after the attack found four distinct bomb craters on a forested mountainside, with little evidence of other damage. Interviews with residents, witnesses, local officials and medical personnel offered no evidence of mass casualties, as the Indian government had claimed.
Residents and witnesses told Al Jazeera at the time that there was a religious school close to the targeted site, but that it was undamaged in the attack.
A road sign for the school said that it was led by JeM Chief Masood Azhar and administered by Muhammad Yousaf Azhar, the JeM chief’s brother-in-law. The sign has since been removed, and journalists on Wednesday’s military tour said it was no longer present.
In the first-ever visit to the site of the school, journalists and diplomats were shown a large room where children were rocking back and forth as they read the Quran, and a set of buildings that appeared to be undamaged, journalists who were on the trip told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.
“It was difficult to be conclusive,” said one reporter, pointing out how military personnel monitored the group throughout the delegation’s visit and sometimes intervened during interviews with teachers and students.
“The buildings did not look tampered with – the roofs didn’t look new, everything there looked pretty old,” the reporter said when asked if there appeared to be any evidence of the buildings having been repaired in the 43 days since the air raids.
A second journalist who was on the tour corroborated that account.
The journalists said there were between 75 and 100 students present at the school, and that most appeared to live in on-site dormitories, which the delegation was denied access to.