- Amit Shah is the first BJP leader to put out a figure on record
- Amit Shah was speaking at a rally in Ahmedabad
- Opposition has asked for details of the air strike and its impact
The government is yet to give an official count of terrorists killed in India's air strike on a terror camp in Pakistan's Balakot last week, but BJP president Amit Shah declared a number at an election rally on Sunday in Gujarat. He claimed that "more than 250" terrorists were killed in that operation, which makes him the first leader of the ruling party to put out a figure on record amid questions raised by the opposition.
"After Uri, our forces went into Pakistan and carried out surgical strikes. They avenged the death of our soldiers. After Pulwama, everyone thought there could be no surgical strikes, what will happen? But under (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi's leadership, the government carried out an air strike after the 13th day and killed more than 250 terrorists," Amit Shah said in Gujarati, at the public meeting in Ahmedabad.
As the BJP emphatically denies politicising the Indian Air Force (IAF) strike and the confrontation with Pakistan, its chief also said India was only the third country after the US and Israel to avenge attacks on its armed forces.
News agency ANI reported that at another event in Surat, Amit Shah also said: "Earlier our jawans used to be beheaded and insulted but today, situation is such that when our jawan fell in Pakistan while shooting down an F-16, within 24 hours he was back. This change is because of Narendra Modi's will power."
Referring to political opponents like Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav asking for details of the air strike and its impact following skeptical reports by a section of the world media, Amit Shah said: "They should be ashamed of their statements. The statements have brought a smile to Pakistan's face. I know they do not have Modiji's calibre, but if they cannot support the armed forces, they should at least learn to keep quiet."
Congress leader Manish Tewari seized on the comments to accuse the BJP chief of "milking the air strikes" for politics.
AVM RGK Kapoor said "it would be premature to say that what is the number of casualties that we have been able to inflict on those camps and what is the number of deaths," BUT @AmitShah says over 250 Terrorists killed in airstrike. Is this not milking Air Strikes for Politics????- Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) March 4, 2019
Just yesterday, another BJP leader, Union Minister SS Ahluwalia had accused the media of giving "unconfirmed figures" when neither PM Modi, nor any government spokesperson or Amit Shah had given any figures. He claimed that the strikes were intended at sending out a message, not killing.
On February 26, hours after India sent fighter planes into Pakistan for the first time in decades and targeted a training facility of the Jaish-e-Mohammed - the terror group behind the suicide attack in Kashmir's Pulwama in which over 40 soldiers were killed - a terrorist death count of 300 floated around but there was no official confirmation. The Air Force has also refused to give any figures.
A day after the strike, Pakistani jets crossed the Line of Control and Indian fighter planes pushed them back, in the first aerial combat between the neighbours in nearly 50 years. IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistan after his MiG-21 fighter was shot down; he returned to India after two days in Pakistani captivity.