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Congress questions number of casualties in airstrike in Pakistan


New Delhi: With the government yet to give an official count of the number of terrorists killed in the airstrike in Pakistan's Balakot and Air Chief Marshal B. S. Dhanoa declining to comment on the casualties, the Congress on Monday questioned the actual figure of casualties and accused the BJP of politicising the operation.

While Punjab Minister and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu questioned if it was an election gimmick, former Union Minister P. Chidambaram asked who put the number of casualties at 300-350.

"300 terrorists dead, Yes or No? What was the purpose then? Were you uprooting terrorists or trees? Was it an election gimmick," tweeted Sidhu.

"Deceit possesses our land in guise of fighting a foreign enemy. Stop politicising the army, it is as sacred as the state," he said, tagging media reports of Union Minister S.S. Ahluwalia and former Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa's remarks on the IAF strikes.

While Ahluwalia had claimed that the IAF operation in Pakistan's Balakot was to "send out a message and not to kill", Yeddyurappa said the airstrike will help the BJP win 22 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka in the upcoming general elections.

In a series of tweets, Chidambaram said: "Vice Air Marshal declined to comment on casualties. A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said there were no civilian or military casualties. So, who put out the number of casualties at 300-350?

"As a proud citizen, I am prepared to believe my government. But if we want the world to believe, the government must make the effort, not indulge in Opposition-bashing," said Chidambaram.

The Congress leaders' comments follow BJP president Amit Shah's assertion that "more than 250 terrorists were killed in that operation".

"The government carried out airstrike and killed more than 250 terrorists," Amit Shah said in Gujarati, at a public meeting in Ahmedabad.

IAF chief Dhanoa addressing the media in Coimbatore on Monday said that the Indian Air Force's job was to "hit their targets and not count casualties".

The IAF operation has remained at the centre of a political slugfest with Modi and Shah lashing out at the Opposition for questioning the counter-terror operation while the opposition has accused the BJP of playing politics over national security.

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