300 active targets were confirmed by NTRO surveillance before Balakot strike: Sources

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 04 March 2019, 07:26 PM
Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 (File Picture)
Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 (File Picture)

The technical surveillance by Indian intelligence agencies have found that just before the Indian Air Force jets struck the Jaish-e-Mohammed camps in Balakot on February 26, 300 mobile phones were active at the facility, giving a clear indication of the total number of inmates housed there, sources said.

The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) had stated surveillance of the facility after the Indian Air Force (IAF) was given clearance to target the camps in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the sources said to the news agency ANI.

"During technical surveillance, it emerged that there was a presence of around 300 mobile phones with active signal strength inside the facility in the days leading up to the strike. The facility was destroyed by the IAF fighters," added the sources to ANI.

Indian fighter jets Mirage 2000, which pounded a JeM terror facility at Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan was eternised by a village family, which named a newborn baby after the lethal jet.

Miraj Singh Rathore was the name given to the baby, born minutes after the Indian fighter jets wreaked havoc on the Balakot terror camp. The baby was born to a couple in Dabra village of Nagaur district in Rajasthan. The family has some of its members serving in the Indian armed forces.

“Nothing could be a celebration of the IAF's feat better than eternalizing it. As the feat was commanded by Mirage fighter jets and the child was born exactly when the jets were engaged in a strike, we decided to name the child after the jets," said the newborn baby's father Mahaveer Singh, a school teacher by profession.

The name was suggested by the baby's uncle, who is serving the Indian Air Force and is currently posted in Nainital. He suggested the name when he learnt about the baby's birth. "The moment he suggested the name, we lapped up the proposal, considering it to be unique and a humble recognition to the valiant feat of the Mirage 2000 jets, said Singh.

The baby's mother had labour pains at the same night and was admitted to the hospital, where she delivered the baby at about 3.50 am, coinciding with the IAF's air strike at Balakot. The baby has one more uncle, who served the Indian Army and the family is proud of its links with the Indian armed forces.

IAF chief B S Dhanoa on Monday sidestepped a raging debate on the number of casualties in the Balakot strike and 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.

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."

First Published: Monday, March 04, 2019 07:02 PM
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