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Air Force doesn�t count casualties: IAF chief

By The Assam Tribune

COIMBATORE, March 4 - Sidestepping a raging debate on the number of casualties in the Balakot strike, IAF chief BS Dhanoa on Monday said it is for the government to provide details on the terrorists killed and the Air Force only sees if a target has been hit or not.

The Air Force doesn�t count human casualties, Dhanoa said as the figure of how many terrorists were killed in the February 26 attack on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot in Pakistan�s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province remained unclear.

Government sources said up to 350 terrorists were killed, BJP president Amit Shah put the toll at 250, some media reports indicated the damage was minimal and opposition leaders clamoured for clarity. But there has been no official statement so far.

�We don�t count human casualties. We count what targets we have hit or not hit,� Dhanoa said in his first comments since the events of last week, when escalating India-Pakistan tensions led to aerial combat and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman being in captivity in Pakistan for almost three days.

The air chief told reporters the Indian Air Force pilot would fly a fighter jet if he was fit.

�We don�t take chances with the medical fitness of a pilot,� he said at a press conference.

Varthaman, who ejected from his MiG 21 Bison on February 27, was captured by Pakistan and released on March 1.

Discussing the Balakot strike, 12 days after the February 14 attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama in which 40 CRPF soldiers were killed, Dhanoa said the Air Force is not in a position to clarify how many people were inside.

The bomb damage assessment that is done post a mission only calculates the target that has been hit or not hit, the air chief noted.

�We can�t count how many people have died. That depends on how many people were there,� Dhanoa said, adding that a statement on the number of terrorists killed will be made by the government.

Asked about reports suggesting that the bombs were dropped away from the target, he said, �Our report says otherwise.�

Referring to Pakistan using F-16 aircraft in its offensive against India last week, Dhanoa said, �I don�t know what is the end-user agreement between America and Pakistan. If the end-user agreement was that they will not use it for offensive purposes, then I think they have violated that end-user agreement.�

India, he said, has pieces of the AMRAAM missile which it displayed. �Obviously, I think they have lost an F-16 in that combat. So, obviously, they have been using that aircraft against us,� he said. � PTI

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