The minister said the government had given the armed forces a free hand to strike whenever they had information about terrorists.
New Delhi: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday that the government will not disclose the number of terrorists killed in the Indian Air Force’s pre-emptive strike at the Jaish-e-Mohammed’s facility at Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
“No. We are not giving the numbers. Trust the government. Trust the forces. Numbers shall not be given,” the defence minister said.
Last week Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, the Chief of Air Staff, had said the IAF doesn’t calculate the number of casualties and that it was for the government to give details on the terrorists killed in the operation. “We hit our targets. The Air Force doesn’t calculate casualty numbers, the government does that,” the Air Chief had said on the attack at Balakot.
The defence minister said the government had confirmed information that JeM’s trainers and new recruits for suicide bombing had started arriving at the Balakot camp from February 24. “We had intel. It was not a random hit,” said Ms Sitharaman.
She said India had called Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine bluff by carrying out the airstrikes within Pakistani territory. The minister said the government had given the armed forces a free hand to strike whenever they had information about terrorists.
She said if Pakistan claims only trees were struck down during the IAF airstrike, then why were the Pakistani authorities not allowing foreign journalists to see the JeM training camp. “It is the responsibility of Pakistan to show the Jaish training camp which was hit by airstrikes inside and outside and the roof of the buildings,” said the defence minister.
Last week Reuters had reported that Pakistani security officials had prevented its team from climbing a hill in northeastern Pakistan to the site of a madrasa and a group of surrounding buildings that was targeted by the Indian warplanes.
It said it was the third time in the past nine days that Reuters reporters had visited the area — and each time the path up to what villagers say was a religious school run at one time by the Jaish-e-Mohammed and what the
Indian government says was a “terrorist training camp” — was blocked.
The Pakistani security officials guarding the way to the site cited “security concerns” for denying access. “The Reuters team could view the madrasa from 100 meters away and only from below. The building that reporters could see was surrounded by undamaged pine trees, and did not show any signs of damage or activity but given the view, the assessment was very limited,” Reuters said.