Day after Amit Shah says Balakot air strikes killed 'more than 250 terrorists', IAF chief tells media they don't count casualties
A day after BJP president Amit Shah said the Balakot air strikes killed 'more than 250 terrorists', IAF Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said the air force does not don't count casualties, it only hits targets.
'We hit our target. The air force doesn't calculate casualty numbers, the government does that,' BS Dhanoa said
At an event in Gujarat on Sunday, Amit Shah had said 'more than 250 terrorists were killed' in the Balakot air strikes
The government has not officially announced any casualty number
Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa on Monday said the Indian Air Force's (IAF) job was to hit its targets, not count casualties. He made the statement at a press briefing in response to a question on the number of terrorists killed in the IAF's 26 February air strikes in Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
"We hit our target. The air force doesn't calculate casualty numbers, the government does that," he said.
Besides the obvious India-Pakistan tensions, his statement holds significance as it comes a day after BJP president Amit Shah claimed "more than 250 terrorists" were killed in the air strikes in Balakot on training camps of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which carried out the suicide attack on a CRPF convoy on 14 February, killing 42 troopers.
"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 (after the Pulwama attack), the Narendra Modi government carried out air strike, and more than 250 terrorists were killed without suffering any losses," Shah said at an event in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
It must be noted that no government representative has revealed the number of casualties in the Balakot operation yet, yet the BJP president presented the figure to his audience with confidence.
On the day of the air strikes, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale steered clear of mentioning how many terrorists were killed in the IAF air strikes, only mentioning that the IAF had "struck the biggest training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Balakot", and in this intelligence-led operation, "a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and jihadis were eliminated".
The ambiguity around this figure, as well as conflicting reports on the extent of damage inflicted by the air strikes in Balakot, are the primary reasons why the Opposition has been demanding proof of what is being called "surgical strikes 2.0". But the government has been on the defence on this front, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claiming that "no security agencies ever share operational details".
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