Raipur/New Delhi: The IAF on Tuesday said it could not swiftly deploy helicopters yesterday to the area where Maoists attacked a CRPF team in Chattisgarh killing 14 personnel since there was no clarity that the landing spot in the dense forests was sanitised.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) came out with its position in response to certain media reports that it did not quickly press their choppers into service even as it flew multiple sorties today to Jagdalpur in Chattisgarh.
The choppers brought back the injured CRPF personnel from the area of the attack in Sukma district. A dozen personnel suffered injuries in the ambush in a dense forest area, 450 km from Raipur.
The choppers also brought the bodies of the men killed in the encounter.
When asked to comment on the media reports about IAF's response, IAF sources in New Delhi said the force got the message for evacuation at 16:42 hours yesterday.
"There is a joint Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) in place for such scenarios. At the time the message came in, there was no clarity whether the landing area has been sanitised.
Also, while the helicopters have night flying capabilities, it could not have landed in the dense forest in dark," the sources said.
The site of encounter is about an hour's flying time from the base where the helicopters are stationed. The sources said that even if the area was sanitised, it would have been dark by the time the choppers reached the spot.
They underlined that the choppers took off as soon as the message came in that the area has been sanitised.
The sources pointed out that last month, the force had rescued four malaria patients in night from a nearby area in the dark.
"At that time, the landing was in plains and there was no operation on. But yesterday, it was dense forest," the sources said.
They underlined that IAF was aware of the ongoing operation by the CRPF and both forces had jointly earmarked landing sites for evacuation purpose.
"But at the time the message came in, it was not clear if the landing site (about a kilometre away from the encounter spot) was sanitised," the sources said.
Incidentally, on November 21 when the IAF was carrying out a rescue operation of CRPF personnel in the same area, the chopper was fired upon by Naxals, as it took off, injuring two personnel on board and causing damage to the helicopter.
IAF has four helicopters stationed in Chattisgarh and two in Jharkhand for anti-naxal operations.