The war over the number of casualties in Balakot airstrike is not ending despite the Indian Air Force officials and the Defence Ministry repeatedly denied confirming the death toll.
On Thursday, a US-based activist who hails from Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan region claimed that local Urdu media reported transferring of dead bodies from Balakot soon after the airstrike. Senge Sering, who is in Washington DC now, tweeted a 2.20-minute long video in which a Pakistan army personnel is seen consoling a family in a hilly area filled with snow.
“#Pakistan military officer admits to “martyrdom” of more than 200 militants during Indian strike on #Balakot. Calls the terrorists Mujahid who receive special favors/ sustenance from Allah as they fight to support PAK government [against enemies]. Vows to support families, (sic)” he said in the tweet.
#Pakistan military officer admits to “martyrdom” of more than 200 militants during Indian strike on #Balakot. Calls the terrorists Mujahid who receive special favors/ sustenance from Allah as they fight to support PAK government [against enemies]. Vows to support families pic.twitter.com/yzcCgCEbmu
— #SengeSering ས།ཚ། (@SengeHSering) March 13, 2019
Several websites carried a story on the ‘latest’ development in the controversial issue. Earlier, Union Minister Piyush Goyal had heated exchange with India Today journalist Rahul Kanwal for asking the details of the airstrike.
The video which appeared on social media at least on March 2, 2019, indicates that it was shot during the burial of a Pakistan army soldier.
Several Pakistani profiles have shared images and videos since March 1 on Facebook claiming that the officer was killed in a shell bombing near the LoC. The snow seen in the video also suggests that it is not the Balakot area as the images from international media and news agencies like Reuters did not show any snow in the images taken after the airstrike.
A Twitter profile called F. Jeffery (@Natsecjeff), Deputy Director & Head South Asia Desk ITCT ( ITCT is “an international think tank countering the narratives of Islamist Terrorism, providing in-depth research reports & consultancy services,” according to their Twitter profile) in a series of Tweets claimed that the video posted by Sering was doctored. He said, after searching through available resources online that the sign of “21 Artillery Division” present in the video signifies the division which has been “rotating around Swat and Dir districts.”
Ok, thread time:
Initially, the video looks doctored. Audio isn’t in sync with video.
— F. Jeffery (@Natsecjeff) March 13, 2019
TV channels and news agencies like PTI and ANI had reported several numbers varying from 350 to 200 quoting sources. BJP leaders Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath also made similar statements.
However, IAF chief B S Dhanoa later said that they don’t count human casualties. “We don’t count human casualties. We count what targets we have hit or not hit.”