The rapidly-escalating tensions between India and Pakistan can be traced back to a suicide attack against Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir on Feb. 14, which has been claimed by a group called Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Jaish said the attack was carried out by one of its members from the Indian-ruled, Muslim-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir. The attack left 40 people dead, making it the worst insurgent attack in Kashmir since 1989.
India responded to the attack by launching an airstrike against a suspected Jaish target inside Pakistan on Tuesday, venturing far into its arch-rival’s territory in search of retribution. It also rounded up at least 300 activists in Kashmir as part of what it called a “jaw-breaking response” to the Jaish attack.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj says the limited objective of the pre-emptive strike inside Pakistan was to act decisively against Jaish to prevent another attack in India.
Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian warplanes on Wednesday, and declared that it had captured one of the Indian pilots.
India says Jaish enjoys free rein in Pakistan. The Indian government has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan act to stop militant groups such as Jaish from operating on its soil.
Pakistan has condemned the Feb. 14 bomb attack but denied any complicity.
India has blamed Jaish for a series of attacks including a 2001 raid on its parliament in New Delhi that led to India mobilizing its military on the border, bringing the foes to the brink of a fourth war.
Who are the Jaish-e-Mohammed?
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), or Army of Mohammed, has ties to other Sunni militant groups in Pakistan such as Lashka-e-Taiba (LeT) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. It was banned in Pakistan in 2002 but U.S. authorities say it still operates there openly.
Jaish has been classified as a terrorist group in many countries, including the U.S. and Canada.
WATCH BELOW: Suicide attack kills dozens in Kashmir
The group was founded in 2000 after the release of its leader, Masood Azhar, from an Indian prison in exchange for 155 hostages from a hijacked Indian Airlines plane. Jaish has claimed responsibility for numerous suicide bombings in Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, which is also claimed by Pakistan.
The group, which aims to unite Kashmir with Pakistan, has repeatedly caused tension between India and Pakistan. Along with LeT, it was involved in attacks in 2001 on the Indian parliament and the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly building.
Pakistan rejects Indian accusations that it harbours and sustains the group. Pakistani authorities have linked JeM with two assassination attempts on former President Pervez Musharraf in 2003 as well as the kidnap and murder of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Where do they operate?
While Kashmir is the focus of Jaish operations, the group was based in Bhawalpur, a dust-blown Pakistani town on the border with India in the south of Punjab province. Media reports and Indian intelligence sources have suggested that a walled headquarters, as well as another large premises on the outskirts of the city, are used to recruit and train youngsters from the impoverished region.
India says it struck at a Jaish camp outside the town of Balakot, near the border with Jammu and Kashmir, on Tuesday. The Pakistani military says the attack did not cause any damage or loss of life.
Jaish is listed as one of 33 banned organizations by Pakistan’s National Counter-Terrorism Authority, which states on its website that the ban came on Jan. 14, 2002. But the group has never hidden its existence, frequently issuing videos threatening India, and also the United States.
After a period of silence, the portly Azhar surfaced in a video in 2014, boasting of 300 suicide bombers at his command and threatening to kill Narendra Modi if he became India’s prime minister.
Despite many rumours, his whereabouts have been officially unknown since a 2016 attack on an Indian air force base in Pathankot in Indian Punjab.
Blacklisted by the United Nations
In 2001, the UN Security Council blacklisted the Jaish, tying it to al Qaeda, and accusing it of participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of al Qaeda acts.
But the group has floated in and out of the shadows and a U.S. State Department report last year said Pakistan had not cracked down on the activities of JeM and other groups that aim mainly to operate outside its territory.
“The government failed to significantly limit LeT and JeM from openly raising money, recruiting, and training in Pakistan,” it said.
While Jaish was blacklisted by the UN Security Council, India’s efforts to get Azhar sanctioned have been blocked by China, it says. China has put a technical hold each time India has pushed the issue in the council.
China said earlier this month that it condemned the latest attack in Kashmir, and noted that Jaish, which claimed the attack, was already on a UN sanctions list. As for its leader is concerned, the relevant committee had rules and processes for listing people, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
WATCH: Tensions escalate between India and Pakistan
—With files from The Associated Press