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Amid demands for 'proof' of IAF's Balakot strike, international precedent shows evidence is seldom made public

Ever since the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed's (JeM) training camp at Balakot in Pakistan's Kyber Pakhtunkhwa province on 26 February, Opposition legislators and some of the kin of the Central Reserve Police Force personnel killed in the 14 February attack have demanded proof.

The demand grew more vociferous after BJP chief Amit Shah claimed as many as 300 terrorists had been killed in the strike.

 Amid demands for proof of IAFs Balakot strike, international precedent shows evidence is seldom made public

A building, which residents claim is a madrasa, near to the site of IAF's air strikes in Balakot, Pakistan. Reuters

While the government said that it would not share numbers, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale asserted that a "very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders, and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated."

Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa also refused to discuss how many terrorists were killed, but said: "If we plan to hit the target, we hit the target." Matters escalated after a foreign agency, based on satellite photographs, recently suggested that no significant damage took place on the JeM camp in Balakot.

On Thursday the IAF submitted a dossier to the government containing high resolution satellite images to prove that 80 percent of the bombs deployed during the airstrike hit their intended targets. The force, however, said it was up to the government to release these images.

There isn't much precedent for releasing 'proof' of anti-terror operations. Some in the establishment argue that releasing such documents threaten national security. Others claim it can disturb diplomatic, cultural and socio-economic relations between countries and people.

Even Israel, which has a long history of fighting terrorists, puts out very little information about its operations. Israeli-based research group Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which has close ties to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), has a list of attacks by terrorists and adequate response by Israeli forces, without going into details.

For example, the research group mentions how a terrorist squad of five Hamas operatives were apprehended on 5 October, 2015, and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated forces for the successful operation. But no "evidence" relating to the operation was released by authorities. In another instance, details of "hunted" terrorists were listed by the government, but no documents backing up this assertion were provided.

In 2018, Israel said it blocked tunnels dug into its territory by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon that were used to take Israeli citizens hostage, reported BBC. The IDF also announced the start of this operation, dubbed Northern Shield, on Twitter.

Similarly, little evidence of the covert raid that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden by US Navy SEALs on his Abbottabad compound in Pakistan on 2 May, 2011 has been made available with many stories questioning the story put out by the authorities regarding the operation.

All that was released a year later by the US was a 175-page document that Laden and other key Al-Qaeda figures, including the American Adam Gadahn and Abu Yahya al-Libi, compiled and which were seized during the raid.

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Updated Date: Mar 07, 2019 19:54:17 IST