After Sitharaman Says Won’t Give Death Toll, Rajnath Doubles Down on 300 Terrorists Killed Claim
The home minister claimed that National Technical Research Organisation system had informed about presence of around 300 active mobile phones at the Balakot camp before the air strike.
New Delhi: Top ministers in the Narendra Modi government, who for a week maintained complete silence on the details of the IAF strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Pakistan, have now broken their silence but only to speak in different voices and add to the confusion.
This was on display on Tuesday as defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government’s position was to not give any casualty figure in the IAF bombing, while home minister Rajnath Singh said the number of terrorists killed in Balakot would be known "today or tomorrow".
Both Sitharaman and Singh sit on the Cabinet Committee on Security, which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has met twice in the past week since the air strikes.
Hinting that number of terrorists killed stood at 300, the home minister claimed that National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) system had informed about presence of around 300 active mobile phones at the site before the air strike by India.
"The NTRO, which has an authentic system, said that 300 mobile phones were active (at the Balakot site). Were these mobile phones used by the trees? Now will you (opposition) not believe the NTRO also?" Singh asked while addressing a public meeting in Dhubri, Assam.
The 300 figure had first emerged from unnamed government sources on the day of the strike, but since then various other figures have been bandied about as the government did not come on record. BJP chief Amit Shah on Monday had also claimed 250 terrorists were killed.
Singh's statement came within a couple of hours of Sitharaman saying that the government would not give a death toll. “Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had not given any casualty figure in the airstrike and he had only given a statement, which was the government's position,” Sitharaman told reporters.
Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had also said that the IAF cannot give an exact figure of those killed in the air strikes as the IAF only focusses on whether targets are hit or not and doesn’t count the number of the dead.
Charging the opposition of doing politics over the strike, the home minister suggested the Congress to go to Pakistan and count the bodies if they want to know how many terrorists were killed.
"Some leaders of the other political parties are asking how many terrorists were killed in the IAF strike. Today or tomorrow, it will be known. Pakistan and their leaders' heart know how many were killed," Singh added.
He took a dig at the opposition for questioning the number of terrorists killed and said the parties were up to, "kitne mare, kitne mare?" (how many died?) "Should our Air Force go and count the bodies after the attack -- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...? What is this joke?" he questioned.