01:36 GMT09 July 2020
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    Italian journalist Francesca Marino spoke to Indian news channel India TV, revealing that the numbers she got were through inputs based on information gathered through reliable sources in the region. Pakistan, however, been denying any loss of life or property in the air strike, calling it Indian election rhetoric.

    New Delhi (Sputnik): As many as 170 Jaish-e-Mohammed militants were killed in Balakot, within Pakistan, due to the Indian air strike launched on 26 February in retaliation for a terror attack on a convoy of security personnel in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir earlier in February, an Italian journalist has revealed to Indian news channel India TV.  

    Pakistan's cover up exposed in new report. 130-170 JeM terrorists killed in Balakot airstrike, confirms Italian journalist @francescam63.

    ​The Balakot air strike on 26 February was India's response to the 14 February JeM-perpetrated Pulwama terror attack that killed more than 40 Indian soldiers.

    Pakistan responded with its own strike on Indian soil later in the month, which resulted in a dogfight between the air forces of the two nuclear-armed nations. The aerial battle resulted in the loss of aircraft for India as well as for Pakistan, although Pakistan denied that any of its aircraft had been shot down.

    India had claimed that the Balakot air strike was successful and had achieved its aim of destroying the alleged JeM terror infrastructure. Amit Shah, the president of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, had reportedly claimed over 250 terrorists were killed in the air strike.

    READ MORE: IAF Review Claims India Struck 5 Targets in Balakot Airstrike — Report

    The claim, however, was shot down by Pakistan. 

    ​Other Indian agencies and media reports corroborated the ‘damages done' by the 26 February Indian air strikes, but had refrained from putting any figures as to the body count of jihadi terrorists; although the Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had said "a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated" in the attack.

    READ MORE: Pakistani Military Says India Has Finally Backed Down on Balakot Strike Claim

    Pakistan has vehemently denied the damages claimed by India and reiterated that nothing noteworthy had been hit by Indian bombs, and that there was no death toll. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity is rapidly shrinking, he could plan any "misadventure" to remain in power, adding that Pakistan should remain alert till the Indian elections are over.

    ​Some six weeks after the strike, in April, the Pakistani administration invited foreign media and Western diplomats on a guided trip to Balakot to the ‘very place' where the Indian planes had dropped bombs.

    ​The media-diplomat entourage that visited the site, by and large, reported that the visit offered too little too late, and evidence provided by the Pakistani government was inconclusive.

    The revelation from Francesca Marino seems to be a shot in the arm for the Indian government, especially Narendra Modi, who is vying for re-election for a second term in the ongoing national elections. 


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    terror cell, denial, casualties, airstrike, Balakot, India, Pakistan
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