New Delhi: Pakistan’s Imran Khan government has been working overtime to paint a false narrative in the aftermath of India’s strike on terror launch pads in Balakot but an Italian journalist with considerable experience in reporting on Pakistan has confirmed that Indian air strikes in Balakot did indeed kill 130 to 170 terrorists there.
The journalist Francesca Marino, who specialises in South Asia reporting, has filed a report in which she says evidence proves the death of at least 130 Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists in the air strikes carried out by IAF in Balakot, in response to the dastardly Pulwama attacks. Speaking to WION, Marino exposed the cover-up done by Pakistan in the aftermath of the strikes. “130 to 170 died in the air strikes. Others are still undergoing treatment by Pakistani Army doctors and are not in any hospital. Details have been emerging all this time, slowly, because my source there (in Pakistan) is very scared. The operation (the coverup after Balakot strikes by IAF) has been orchestrated by the Pakistani Army and JeM. Everything has been cleared,” she said. “Of course, the Pakistani Army spokesperson has said there is no JeM in Pakistan but I have photos of actual signboards taken in camps and compared them to photos after the air strike. Everything is cleared, there is no track, no footprint of JeM.”
Marino further said that she has published photos of two JeM terrorists in the camp from before the air strikes in Balakot. She also punctured Pakistan’s claims of having taken journalists to the site of the strikes. “A group of selected journalists have been taken there (Balakot), with the army and surrounded by the army. They have been shown a madrasa which has clearly been whitewashed. The camp spreads over two kilometres and these journalists were not taken to the part which was hit,” she said. “They were told to quickly ask a few questions to children at the madrasa. Who builds a madrasa for children so far from villages?”
Stating that locals in the area are prohibited from venturing anywhere near the camp that was targeted by IAF, Marino has also said that JeM took upon the task of silencing family members of the slain terrorists in the immediate aftermath of the February 26 strikes. “They have been going to families of those who were killed and handing out cash, and of course, threatening them. JeM members have also been heard telling families that some sort of revenge will come up.”
These startling revelations by Marino, an award-winning journalist, come as a massive blow to Pakistan which has repeatedly tried to portray itself as a victim of terrorism while actually being a safe haven for it. The neutrality of Marino and her reporting would also be a shot in the arm for IAF which stands vindicated in the face of malicious and false propaganda by Pakistan in relation to Balakot.