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300 terrorists died in Balakot airstrike: Former Pak Diplomat

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Islamabad, Jan 09: Former Pakistani diplomat Agha Hilaly admitted on Saturday that 300 Pakistani terrorists had died in the Balakot airstrike by India on February 26, 2019. The admission by the former Pakistani diplomat Agha Hilaly goes against the zero casualties claim made by Islamabad at that time.

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"India crossed the international border and did an act of war in which at least 300 were reported dead. Our target was different from theirs. We targeted their high command. That was our legitimate target because they are men of the military. We subconsciously accepted that a surgical strike -- a limited action -- did not result in any casualty. Now we have subconsciously told them that, whatever they will do, we'll do only that much and won't escalate," said Agha Hilaly.

It may be recalled that, Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Ayaz Sadiq had claimed that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had in an important meeting pointed out that, if Pakistan did not release Abhinandan, India would attack Pakistan "that night at 9.00 pm."

The MP also told opposition leaders that the Pakistani foreign minister, in a meeting with the parliamentary leaders that included Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, had asked for Abhinandan to be let free.

"I remember Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in the meeting which [Prime Minister] Imran Khan had refused to attend and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Bajwa came into the room, his legs were shaking and he was perspiring. Foreign Minister said for God's sake let Abhinandan go, India's about to attack Pakistan at 9.00 pm", Sadiq said, recounting the events of the meeting.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated in the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack which killed 40 CRPF troopers. While India conducted an air raid on terrorist camps in Balakot on Pakistan's side on February 26, the Pakistan Air Force made incursions into Indian airspace on the next day.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman landed in Pakistani custody following an aerial dogfight between Indian and Pakistani pilots a day after the Balakot airstrikes in 2019.

His MiG-21 Bison aircraft had crossed over to the Pakistani side and was shot down. He was subsequently released on March 1, 2019.

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