BJP President Amit Shah claimed in an election rally that the IAF airstrike on Pakistan killed 250 terrorists as a response to the Pulwama terror attacks. These claims were also made by various news agencies on February 26 – the day of the airstrikes. However, the government and the Indian Air Force have stayed silent and are yet to confirm the casualties despite questions from the media and various opposition parties.
Shah made the claim at the “Lakshya Jito” program in Ahmedabad on Sunday. The BJP’s live steam can be found here. Speaking in Gujarati, the BJP chief made the claim while talking about the defence situation of the country under the UPA and the NDA.
|Original speech (Gujarati)||English translation|
|પરંતુ મિત્રો નરેન્દ્ર મોદી સરકારે બરોબર તેરમા ના દિવસે એર strike કરી 250 થી વધારે આતંકવાદીઓ નું સફાયો કરી દીધો||But friends, the Narendra Modi govern-ment, on the 13th day (post the attack), conducted airstrikes and killed 250 terrorists.|
This is the first time any senior leader of the BJP shared the casualty numbers as a result of the airstrikes. But ever since the strike took place on February 26 early morning, several news agencies had reported the casualties to be ranging between 200-350, attributing it to unnamed government sources.
CNNNews18 was the first news channel to display these unverified numbers on air at 8:55 AM on February 26. They followed it with a tweet at 9:05 AM.
#EXCLUSIVE – 200-300 casualties from IAF strike, says top government sources. JeM’s biggest terror camp destroyed. IAF on high alert. #IndiaStrikesBack | Input: @manojkumargupta. | Details by @shreyadhoundial pic.twitter.com/m75mE9b2d3— News18 (@CNNnews18) February 26, 2019
You can find an archived version of the tweet here.
A few tweets of news agencies reporting the same figures as given below:
We bring you publicly available quotes from various government and IAF officials whenever they were asked to confirm the casualties as reported in the media.
1. Press Conference By Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale
In the first press conference addressed by the government at 11:30 am, since the airstrike on February 26, India’s top diplomat and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, gave a press statement representing the Ministry of External Affairs.
The press statement can be found here.
The text of his statement can be read here:
The statement makes no mention of any casualty statistics.
It only made the following important points:
- A confirmation of the airstrikes in “non-military pre-emptive strike” carried out on the basis of credible Indian intelligence
- A statement saying “a very large number of terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated.” No number or data point has been provided.
- Information that the facility in Balakot was biggest JeM camp
- Information that the facility was headed by Maulana Yusuf Azhar, brother in law of Masood Azhar (head of the JeM)
No questions were taken at the end of the press conference.
2. All Party Meet
At 5:30 pm on February 26, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called for an All Party Meet at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, to brief the opposition on the airstrikes.
In her statement post the meeting to ANI, she lauded the political unity displayed and the unanimity with which the opposition rallied behind the Indian armed forces.
Her statement can be seen here.
Former J&K CM, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, who was present at the meeting confirmed through a series of tweets that the government has no casualty numbers of the JeM personnel killed.
I was in the meeting in Delhi today where senior ministers briefed representatives of various political parties about today’s air strikes.— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 26, 2019
The government was categorical that it can’t & won’t speculate as to the number of JeM cadre killed in this morning’s action. This was in response to a pointed question by @derekobrienmp— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 26, 2019
While the intelligence available to the government before the strike indicates how many were there in the run up to the attack, the number of dead & the identity of those killed has not been established.— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 26, 2019
So those quoting source based numbers ranging all the way up to 300+ have no basis in fact for these numbers. Had the numbers been accurate/verified the government would have officially told us.— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 26, 2019
3. Armed Forces Joint Press Conference
On February 28, the Indian Army, Navy and Airforce held a joint press conference on the broad issue of escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan.
The press conference can be seen below as it appears on BloombergQuint’s YouTube channel.
At the 13:50 mark onwards, Air Vice Marshal Kapoor of the IAF replied:
It would be premature to say the number of casualties we have been able to inflict and what is the number of deaths.
He said this in response upon being asked if the number of casualties – or an approximate number of terrorists killed – had been recorded.
This press conference also showcased proof of an F-16 warplane being used against India by Pakistan, by making public a component of an ‘AMRAAM’ missile – that can only be used by an F-16.
4. Press Conference By The IAF Chief
The IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa held his first presser since the airstrikes.
The presser can be found here.
Post the 3:40 mark, upon being asked outright the number of terrorists killed, he replied.
“That statement will be made by the government”
“…We do not count human casualties. We count what targets we hit or did not hit.”
Incidentally, BJP MP and Union Minister SS Ahluwalia had told PTI as reported here that neither PM Modi, nor any government spokesperson had given any figures and called out he media for giving unconfirmed numbers. He claimed that the strikes were intended at sending out a message and the strikes were not intended to kill.