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We Don't Count the Dead, Says IAF Day After Amit Shah's '250' Claim; Govt's Silence Rings Loud

Addressing a press conference in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore, Dhanoa said the number of casualties at the Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp would be released by the government.


Updated:March 4, 2019, 6:19 PM IST

New Delhi: New Delhi: Amid a political slugfest over the casualty count of India’s air strikes on terror camps in Pakistan, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Monday said the IAF only focusses on whether targets are hit or not and doesn’t count the number of the dead.

Addressing a press conference in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore, Dhanoa said the number of casualties at the Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp would be released by the government.

“The IAF is not in a position to clarify the number of casualties. The government will clarify that. We don't count human casualties, we count what targets we have hit or not,” Dhanoa said.

Asked why Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was flying a MiG-21 Bison, considered to be an ageing aircraft, during an aerial dogfight with Pakistan, Dhanoa said it is a capable jet.

“It has been upgraded, has better radar, air-to air missiles and better weapons system. The target has been clearly amplified by the Foreign Secretary (Vijay Gokhale) in his statement. If we plan to hit the target, we hit the target, otherwise why would he (Pakistan PM Imran Khan) have responded. If we dropped bombs in the jungles, why would he respond,” Dhanoa said.

“One is a planned operation in which you plan and carry out. But when an adversary does a strike on you, every available aircraft goes in, irrespective of which aircraft it is. All aircraft are capable of fighting the enemy,” Dhanoa added.

The IAF chief’s statement comes amid silence from the government on the exact casualty figures after the IAF struck JeM’s biggest training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on February 26, days after an attack by the terror group killed 40 CRPF jawans in J&K’s Pulwama.

The silence has intensified a war of words between the government and opposition with both sides accusing each other of politicising the strikes.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the opposition of playing into the hands of Pakistan, BJP chief Amit Shah claimed that at least 250 terrorists were killed in the IAF action.

“Under Modi's leadership, the government carried out an air strike and killed more than 250 terrorists,” Shah had claimed during an election rally in Gujarat on Sunday.

Advising the government to not indulge in “opposition bashing”, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram question “who put out the number of casualties as 300-350”.

Twelve Indian Air Force Mirage-2000 jets crossed the Line of Control (LoC) last week and destroyed terror camps of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot. The air strike, dubbed surgical strikes 2.0, came two weeks after the Pulwama attack.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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