JABA: The only confirmed victim of India’s ‘air strike’ in Pakistan is still unsure why he was shaken awake in the early hours of Tuesday by an explosion that rocked his mud-brick house and left him with a cut above his right eye.
“They say they wanted to hit some terrorists. What terrorists can you see here?” said 62-year-old Nooran Shah, a resident of Jabba village, near the northeastern town of Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “We are here. Are we terrorists?”
India says Tuesday’s raid destroyed a major training camp of Jaish-e Mohammad group that reportedly claimed responsibility for a February 14 attack in Indian Occupied Kashmir that killed 40 members of a paramilitary police unit.
India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said the strike killed “a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists, trainers, senior commanders being trained were eliminated.”
Another senior government official told reporters that about 300 ‘militants’ had been killed.
On Thursday, though, a senior defence official appeared to backtrack on the claims.
Asked about how much damage the warplanes had caused, Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor said it was “premature” to provide details about casualties.
But he said the Indian armed forces had “fairly credible evidence” of the damage inflicted on the camp by the air strikes.
On the wooded slopes above Jabba, villagers pointed to four bomb craters and some splintered pine trees, but could see little other impact from the series of explosions that blasted them awake at around 3am.
“It shook everything,” said Abdur Rasheed, who drives a pickup van around the area. He said there weren’t any human casualties: “No one died. Only some pine trees died, they were cut down. A crow also died.”
Jabba is set in a thickly wooded area of hills and streams that opens the way to the scenic Kaghan valley, a popular holiday destination for Pakistani tourists. It is a little over 60km from Abbottabad.
Locals say 400 to 500 people live locally, scattered across hills in mudbrick homes. Reuters spoke to about 15 people, none of whom knew of any casualties apart from Nooran Shah.
“I haven’t seen any dead bodies, only a local who was hurt by something or hit by some window, he was hurt,” said Abdur Rasheed, echoing numerous others.
In Basic Health Unit, Jabba, the nearest hospital, Mohammad Saddique, an official who was on duty on the night of the attack, also dismissed claims of major casualties.
“It is just a lie. It is rubbish,” he said. “We didn’t receive even a single injured person. Only one person got slightly hurt and he was treated there. Even he wasn’t brought here.”
In Balakot, a town largely rebuilt after an earthquake in 2005, Zia Ul Haq, senior medical officer in Tehsil Headquarters Hospital said no casualties had been brought in on Tuesday.