Pakistan takes media, diplomats on visit to Indian strike site

The group saw the “ground realities” of the strike site. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 April 2019

Pakistan takes media, diplomats on visit to Indian strike site

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has campaigned hard on what he claims is the success of the February 26 strike
  • Pakistan has denied from the start that there was any damage or casualties

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has escorted a group of foreign journalists and diplomats to the site of an Indian air strike to show that, contrary to Delhi’s claims, no infrastructure was damaged, the military spokesman said.
The visiting group, which Major General Asif Ghafoor said was mostly based in Delhi, was shown observing a crater in Balakot in video published via Twitter late Wednesday, on the eve of India’s massive election.
The group saw the “ground realities” of the strike site, Ghafoor said in a caption accompanying the tweet.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has campaigned hard on what he claims is the success of the February 26 strike. Indian officials have claimed up to 250 militants were killed.
Pakistan has denied from the start that there was any damage or casualties, with Modi’s counterpart Imran Khan framing it as an election ploy.
With the first phase of polls in India’s massive election opening Thursday, Modi has styled himself as India’s “chowkidar” (“watchman“), and anyone even questioning the action against Pakistan is given short shrift.
But independent reporting by multiple local and international outlets who have visited the site found no evidence of a major terrorist training camp — or of any infrastructure damage at all.
An AFP reporter who visited just hours after the strike was carried out saw damage only to trees and one mud hut. Local residents have said no one was killed.
The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab said that open-source satellite imagery indicated “only impacts in the wooded area, with no damage being visible to the surrounding structures.”
The strike was in retaliation to a suicide bombing in Indian-held Kashmir on February 14 that was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group.
It was followed by Pakistani air strikes which hit open space in Indian territory and ignited a dogfight in the skies over the disputed region of Kashmir, the worst confrontation between the nuclear-armed foes in years.
Pakistan said it shot down two Indian war planes, with one falling on the Indian side of the de facto Kashmir border. It captured the pilot of the other, releasing him days later in a bid to defuse tensions.
India says just one of its planes was shot down, and claimed that the second plane was a Pakistani F-16 shot down by the Indian air force.
Pakistan has denied that claim also, and Foreign Policy has reported that the US had done a count of all Pakistan’s F-16s, with none missing.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars over it.


Riot police on Greek islands as work begins on new migrant camps

Updated 25 February 2020

Riot police on Greek islands as work begins on new migrant camps

  • There are more than 38,000 migrants crowded into camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos
  • The UN’s refugee chief on Friday called for urgent action to address the “shocking and shameful” conditions migrants are forced to live in

ATHENS: Riot police were dispatched to the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios on Tuesday as the government plowed ahead with the construction of controversial new migrant camps, officials said.

At the harbors of both islands, where hundreds of local residents had gathered, police used tear gas to clear the way for security force reinforcements and construction machinery, a police source told AFP.

At Chios harbor on Mesta, some hooded protesters threw stones as scores of riot police disembarked, TV footage showed.

Residents have parked cars and garbage trucks on roads leading to the camp sites, which are to house up to 7,000 people each, in an attempt to hobble their construction.

“There are roadblocks. We will intervene where necessary,” a police source told AFP.

After weeks of fruitless talks with local authorities, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the weekend insisted that the plan would go ahead despite opposition.

“The works will begin immediately and will be completed. There is no turning back,” he told conservative party cadres on Sunday.
Main opposition leftist party Syriza has accused the government of undemocratic behavior.

“We will not allow Mr. Mitsotakis and his government to turn the islands into a battle ground,” said Syriza spokesman Alexis Charitsis.

There are more than 38,000 migrants crowded into camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos despite an official capacity of just 6,200.

Island officials and residents have told the Greek government that after five years on the front lines of the European migration crisis, they are no longer prepared to accept thousands of asylum-seekers.

The conservative government which came to power in July has announced that the camps on Lesbos, Samos and Chios will be shut down this year, to be replaced with new, smaller facilities that are to be operational by mid-2020.

But while the Mitsotakis administration tries to alleviate the problem by relocating thousands of migrants to other parts of Greece, many communities on the mainland have also stonewalled the move.

The UN’s refugee chief on Friday called for urgent action to address the “shocking and shameful” conditions migrants are forced to live in at reception centers on the Greek islands.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi said swift measures were needed to reduce overcrowding and improve living conditions on the islands prioritising water, sanitation and health care, as the winter weather was exacerbating the situation.