After Amit Shah claimed that “more than 250 terrorists” were killed when the Indian Air Force struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror camp in Balakot on February 26, former Army chief and Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh Tuesday said the death toll is not a “confirmed figure” and that the BJP chief meant that these many “might have died” in the air strike.
“That (casualty figure) was based on people who were housed in the buildings which were hit, it’s an estimate. He is not saying this is a confirmed figure, he is saying this many might have died,” Singh said when asked about Shah’s claim.
In a “non-military pre-emptive action”, the Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighters destroyed a Jaish terror camp in Balakot in Pakistan on February 26, a week after the terror group claimed responsibility of a suicide attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama in which 40 CRPF soldiers were killed on February 14.
Watch video: We hit terror targets, can’t count casualties, says Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa
A report in The Indian Express quoted top government sources saying IAF hit the four buildings it targeted, but limitations of technical intelligence and lack of ground intelligence at this point make any assessment of terrorists killed in the attack “purely speculative”.
While the government hasn’t yet provided details on the number of casualties in the strike, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa Monday said the “Air Force is not in a position to clarify how many people were inside (the target). We don’t count human casualties. We count what targets have been hit, or not hit”.
Responding to a query on the number of terrorists killed, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa has said: “That statement will be made by the government… The bomb damage assessment that is done post mission calculates the number of targets that you have been able to hit, or not been able to hit. We can’t count how many people have died. That depends on how many people were there.”
BJP president Amit Shah, however, said on Sunday that “more than 250 terrorists” were killed in the airstrike. “After the Uri attack, the army did a surgical strike. After the Pulwama attack, people said there could not be a surgical strike due to the high level of alertness. But on the 13th day, the Narendra Modi government carried out an airstrike, and more than 250 terrorists were killed without suffering any losses,” Shah had said.
Opposition leaders including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and BSP chief Mayawati, have questioned the government over the veracity of the claims of the death toll after international media reports suggested that hardly anybody was killed in the airstrike by the IAF.
In a rally Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Opposition of demoralising the armed forces by “raising doubts” and “asking for proof” of the Balakot airstrike.
“While we are out to counter terrorism across the border, what are some people inside the country doing? Instead of boosting the morale of our forces, they are speaking in a language which is lighting up the faces of our enemies. Pakistan TV is airing their statements and faces, and people in Pakistan are applauding them,” he said.