Pakistan PM accuses India of war hysteria over downed F-16 claim

Pakistan PM accuses India of war hysteria over downed F-16 claim
Pakistani PM Imran Khan blamed India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for “whipping up war hysteria” over claims that India shot down a Pakistani F-16 during a standoff in February. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 April 2019

Pakistan PM accuses India of war hysteria over downed F-16 claim

Pakistan PM accuses India of war hysteria over downed F-16 claim
  • Nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan engaged in an aerial battle over the disputed region of Kashmir a day after Indian jets crossed over into Pakistan to attack a suspected camp of anti-India militants
  • An Indian jet was brought down during the fight and its pilot captured when he ejected on the Pakistani side of the border

KARACHI: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for “whipping up war hysteria” over claims that India shot down a Pakistani F-16 during a standoff in February, saying the truth is always the best policy.
US-based Foreign Policy magazine, citing US officials, said all of Pakistan’s F-16 combat jets had been accounted for, contradicting an Indian air force assessment that it had shot down one of the jets.
“The truth always prevails and is always the best policy,” Khan said in a Tweet. “BJP’s attempt to win elections through whipping up war hysteria and false claims of downing a Pak F 16 has backfired with US Defense officials also confirming that no F16 was missing from Pakistan’s fleet.”

Nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan engaged in an aerial battle over the disputed region of Kashmir a day after Indian jets crossed over into Pakistan to attack a suspected camp of anti-India militants.
An Indian jet was brought down during the fight and its pilot captured when he ejected on the Pakistani side of the border. He was later released.
India said it too had shot down a Pakistani aircraft and the air force displayed pieces of a missile that it said had been fired by a Pakistani F-16 before it went down.
Foreign Policy said in a report published on Thursday two US defense officials with direct knowledge of the matter said US personnel had done a count of Pakistan’s F-16s and found none missing.
Details of the India-Pakistan air engagement have not been fully provided by either side. If the US report turns out to be true, it would be a further blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had said that India had taught Pakistan a lesson, ahead of elections next week.
The BJP is campaigning on a platform of tough national security, especially with regard to arch foe Pakistan. New Delhi blames Pakistan for stoking a 30-year revolt in Muslim-majority Kashmir but Islamabad denies any involvement.
The success of Indian air strikes on a camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group in northwestern Pakistan has also been thrown into doubt after satellite images showed little sign of damage.
High-resolution satellite images reviewed by Reuters last month showed that a religious school run by Jaish appeared to be still standing days after India said its warplanes had hit the militant group’s training camp on the site and killed a large number of militants.
Pakistan closed its airspace amid the standoff but most commercial air traffic has since resumed and major airports have opened.
Pakistan offered to open one air route on Friday, an Indian government official said, without specifying details and declining to be named as the matter was not public.
An Air India official said on condition of anonymity that Pakistan has opened one of its 11 air routes, from the southern side, adding that the carrier began operations via this route on Friday.
“Pakistan has opened one air route over India on April 4th, it is a north-west bound route,” Mujtaba Baig, spokesman for Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, told Reuters on Saturday.
An email sent to the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation was not immediately answered. Air India did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.


Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 27 min 8 sec ago

Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities
  • Many migrants recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya

ROME: A charity rescue ship carrying 373 migrants picked up off the Libyan coast has been allowed to dock in the Italian port of Augusta, in Sicily.

The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities for its passengers to disembark.

The migrants — who included 165 children of which 21 were aged under four — had been plucked from four packed dinghies and where mostly from south Saharan countries in Africa. They had told rescuers they were fleeing from camps in Libya where they feared for their lives.

Many recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya, with some having already attempted sea crossings to Europe only to be intercepted and transported back to the Libyan camps.

One of those rescued, Kylian, 19, from Mali, told Arab News: “In Libya we were all crammed into one home and we weren’t free to go where we wanted. I was out when bandits came, and I wanted to run to warn the others in the camp. When they fired, I fell to the ground. They thought that I was dead, and they just left me there.”

The man said he was wounded but could not access medical care in the camp. “I thought I was going to die. This happens all the time in Libya. I was finally treated because a friend took me to a Cameroonian woman who was doctor.”

The teenager was speaking on the phone of a volunteer from the maritime humanitarian organization SOS Mediterranee. All the migrants will be transferred to a quarantine ship after being tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Luisa Albera, rescue coordinator on the Ocean Viking, told Arab News: “From the survivors, we have heard gruesome tales of the inhumane treatment they had to endure in Libya.

“The last three days at sea have been extremely hard for those people, as the weather has worsened rapidly. Several babies and small children were on board; they have particularly suffered from seasickness.”

She pointed out that more than 1,200 people had died last year while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

“We are relieved that the 373 people on board our ship managed to reach a safe port, but the international community must do more to save people in the Mediterranean. Too many lives depend on this.

“EU member states must find a sustainable solution and set up a rapid disembarkation mechanism, supporting European coastal states such as Italy and Malta and working to respect international maritime law on our common coasts to the south,” Albera said.

Prior to the Ocean Viking being given permission to dock in Augusta, a heavily pregnant woman was taken from the ship to the Italian island of Lampedusa by an Italian coastguard vessel.

Italy has repeatedly impounded charity vessels for safety violations, a policy that charities claim is often a tactic to keep them from performing rescues.

The Ocean Viking is currently the only charity ship operating off Libya’s coast, although Libyan coastguard ships are also patrolling, assisted by the EU, and have intercepted 300 migrants and returned them to Libya this month.