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Defence Minister Breaks Silence on Death Toll of Balakot Air Strikes, Says No Number to Give Out

This is the first time that a senior minister has come on record to say that there was no official death toll in the Indian Air Force strike on JeM camp in Pakistan.

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Updated:March 5, 2019, 3:38 PM IST
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Defence Minister Breaks Silence on Death Toll of Balakot Air Strikes, Says No Number to Give Out
File photo of defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman at an event in Bengaluru.
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New Delhi: A day after Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said the IAF cannot give an exact figure of those killed in the air strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Pakistan, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman also said there was no number to give out.

This is the first time that a senior minister has come on record to say that there was no official death toll. The government’s radio silence amid the mounting speculation had been questioned in various quarters, including by the opposition parties.

The defence minister’s statement is also an embarrassment for the BJP as its party chief, Amit Shah, had claimed two days ago that at least 250 terrorists were killed in the air strike on the terror camp in Balakot.

“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, a week after the IAF breached Pakistani air space for the first time since 1971 and targeted the camps.

Gokhale had addressed a press conference hours after the strike, giving the first official government reaction on it. He had said that several Jaish leaders, commanders and trainers were killed, but had not given an exact figure.

Sitharaman also said the bombing of the Jaish site was "not a military action" as there was no damage to civilians.

“It was based on intelligence inputs on terrorist activities in Pakistan, to be unleashed against India. It was not a military action,” she said, adding that there was no relationship between the airstrike and elections.

Sitharaman's remarks come amidst the Opposition seeking details of the death toll in the airstrike, even as the IAF, which carried out the attacks post the Pulwama suicide bombing, said on Monday the Centre would provide details on the casualty figures.

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.
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