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Go to Pakistan and count Balakot toll, Rajnath Singh tells Congress

Those asking for the number of casualties in air strikes targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) camp across the Line of Control should go to Pakistan and do the calculations, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2019 08:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Chennai
Assam, March 05 (ANI): Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh addresses during a public meeting at Jhagrarpar Stadium in Dhubri on Tuesday. (ANI Photo)(Lal Singh)

Those asking for the number of casualties in air strikes targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) camp across the Line of Control should go to Pakistan and do the calculations, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday, hitting out at Opposition parties, including the Congress, that have been asking for proof of the damage inflicted by India’s bombardment in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Addressing a public meeting in Assam’s Dhubri, Singh said Indian forces will go to “paataal (underneath the Earth)” if needed, search for terror bases there and take terrorists to task.

“Should our IAF [Indian Air Force] pilots have visited the sites of the strikes and counted those killed? What kind of drama is this? If our friends in Congress want numbers, I would ask them to go to Pakistan and count. Ask people there how many people were killed by our IAF pilots,” he said.

The home minister was on a visit to the India-Bangladesh border where he inaugurated a “smart fencing” project aimed at curbing cross-border incursions.

“NTRO [National Technical Research Organisation], which is an authentic Indian surveillance system, has stated that when IAF jets struck the area with bombs, there were 300 mobile phones active...,” Singh said, apparently reacting to reports in a section of the global media that said Indian jets missed the target. “Were these phones being used by trees in that area? Or will you now say we don’t believe in the NTRO either?” Singh asked.

On Monday, news agency ANI, citing unnamed people at NTRO, said its intelligence showed the presence of around 300 active mobile connections at the JeM facility that was targeted by the Indian air strike shortly before the raid on February 26.

In Chennai, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the IAF strike was “not a military action” as there was no civilian casualty. She also said foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had not given any casualty figure in his media briefing after the air strike and only gave a statement which is the government’s “position”.

Gokhale has said the non-military and preemptive strike killed a “very large number” of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders.

Sitharaman’s remarks came after the Opposition upped the ante over Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah’s Sunday statement that 250 terrorists were killed in the strike. Officials in India’s intelligence establishment said soon after the attack that 300-350 people, including terrorists and commanders, were killed in the air raid.

The Opposition has been asking for proof of the damage, accusing the central government over what it said was “politicisation” of the strikes.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Mar 05, 2019 22:57 IST