masood azhar yusuf azhar
Masood Azhar and his brother-in-law Yusuf Azhar

In a major blow to Jaish-e-Mohammed, India took out another relative of JeM chief Masood Azhar in the air strike carried out by Indian Air Force in Pakistan.

Yusuf Azhar, who is said to be Masood Azhar's brother-in-law, was killed in the air strike. According to Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, Azhar was in-charge of one of the biggest JeM camps in Balakot which was destroyed in the strike. Balakot is touted as JeM's biggest training camp, especially for suicide bombers.

The strike by the IAF was conducted in the early hours of Tuesday. "India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated,"  Gokhale said.

"This organisation, proscribed by the UN, has been responsible for a series of terror attacks – the 2001 Parliament attack, the January 2016 Pathankot attack," he added.

Yusuf Azhar, who also goes by the aliases Ustaad Ghouri and Mohammad Salim, is known for hijacking the Indian Airline flight IC 814 to Kandahar in 1999. The Indian army caught him but he was given in exchange for the IC 814 passengers held hostage.

Azhar has featured in the Interpol's list of terrorist after a request by the Indian government. He was given a red corner notice. In 2002, Azhar's name was in the list of 20 fugitives given to Pakistan.

This is the third of Masood Azhar's relative taken out by the Indian armed forces. In October last year, Masood Azhar's nephew Usman Haider was killed in an encounter with the security forces in Tral in Pulwama. Haider was said to head the sniper attacks in Kashmir. In July 2018, another of Masood's nephews, who was identified as Talha, was killed in an encounter in Pulwama.

The latest strike by India on Pakistan was a retaliation to the attack in Pulwama on February 14, which killed at least 45 CRPF jawans. The attack was carried out by Adhil Ahmad, who drove a van with an IED strapped to it into a convoy carrying the CRPF soldiers when they were driving on the Jammu-Srinagar Highway.

The strike, which was described as a 'non-military preemptive action', was done in an attempt to stop future attacks by the Pakistan-based terror outfit against India. Gokhale said that they received intelligence from credible sources that the JeM was planning on more attacks.