Union minister VK Singh on Tuesday defended Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah’s claim that more than 250 terrorists were killed in the cross-border strike in Balakot in Pakistan on February 26.
Singh, minister of state for External Affairs, claimed the number of terrorists killed was based on the people who were housed in the buildings that were hit by the Mirage 2000 fighter jets, ANI reported. “It’s an estimate, he [Shah] is not saying this is a confirmed figure, he is saying this many might have died,” Singh said.
When asked about the casualties of the strike, Singh said: “The figure is of the attack on Balakot [250 casualties], attack was only at one place, nowhere else. The target was selected carefully, away from residential areas to avoid civilian casualty.”
Addressing a rally in Ahmedabad on Sunday, Shah had claimed that more than 250 terrorists were killed in the Indian Air Force’s air strike. “After the Pulwama attack, everyone thought surgical strike can’t be done this time, now what will happen?” Shah had said. “At that time, Prime Minister Narenda Modi-led central government conducted an airstrike on the 13th day and killed more than 250 terrorists. Without a single [civilian] casualty.”
Several media reports, quoting unidentified officials, had pegged the number of casualties at over 300. However, on Saturday, Union Minister of State SS Ahluwalia refuted those media reports and claimed that the strikes were only meant as a warning.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, meanwhile, questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on Shah’s claims. “BJP chief Amit Shah is arduously making claim that the IAF strike had killed over 250 terrorists in Pakistan, but why his guru PM Modi who is always keen to take credit for everything is silent over it?” Mayawati posted on Twitter. “Terrorists killed is good news, but what is the secret behind deep silence of PM over it?”
On Monday, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had refused to state the number of casualties from the air strike. “That statement will be made by the government, the air force is not in a position to clarify how many people were inside the target,” he told reporters in Coimbatore.
Opposition parties have expressed displeasure about the Centre’s “blatant politicisation of the sacrifices made by Armed Forces”. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee demanded that the Centre share details about the strikes and the number of casualties. Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien had also accused BJP ministers of “leaking exaggerated numbers” to the media about the casualties.