Pak army carried away 35 dead bodies from Balakot after IAF strike, says Italian journalist

Pakistan had denied any casualty in IAF strike

A Pakistan army soldier walks near to the crater where Indian military aircrafts released payload in Jaba village, Balakot | Reuters A Pakistan army soldier walks near to the crater where Indian aircrafts released payload in Jaba village, Balakot | Reuters

Amid debates over the casualties in the counter-terror operation carried out by the Indian Air Force at Balakot in Pakistan, an Italian journalist has claimed that Pakistan army carried away at least 35 dead bodies from the spot.

The IAF, using its Mirage 2000 fighter jets, carried out the strike on the major training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) days after the terror outfit orchestrated a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy at Pulwama, killing 40 jawans.

Francesca Marino, an Italian journalist, told the WION TV channel that her source had confirmed that the death toll in the IAF strike was between 40 and 50. She also claimed that 35 to 40 people had been injured in the strike.

"I've got confirmations... 100% reliable confirmations," she told the TV channel.

India's Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had claimed that “a very large number of” terrorists and trainers were killed in the IAF operation, with national media reports even claiming over 300 people had lost their lives. However, Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor said it was "premature" to provide details about casualties. 

On Monday, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa said the death toll depends on the number of people present at the target.

Pakistan has rejected Indian claims and said the operation was a failure that saw the IAF jets bomb a largely empty hillside without hurting anyone. The JeM terror group has admitted that India attacked its centre in Balakot, but claimed that were no casualties in the air strikes.

Marino, however, said that the dead included 12 young trainees of the JeM, who had all been sleeping in the same area. A JeM trainer called Mufti Moeen and a bomb expert called Usman Ghani were among those killed, she added.

Marino had earlier written in an Indian newspaper that credible eyewitnesses state that they saw up to 35 bodies being transported away from the site, just hours after the strike. 

“...the area had already been cordoned off by then by the army, who did not even allow police to enter. The army also took away mobile phones from the medical staff on the ambulances," she had said.