IAF told to speed up probe into abandoning of cop, chopper



Bangalore: IAF has been asked to speed up its inquiry into an incident in Chhattisgarh where its security guards had allegedly abandoned an injured policeman and an armed chopper, Defence Ministry A K Antony said today.

Addressing a press conference at the Aero India, Defence Minister A K Antony termed the issue as a "an internal family matter of Government of India" and suggested that "mountain should not be made out of a mole hill".

Antony was asked to comment on Home Secretary R K Singh's letter to his counterpart in Defence Ministry Shashikant Sharma demanding action against IAF men who had abandoned an injured policeman and an armed helicopter in Chhattisgarh, saying the incident was extremely disturbing.

"IAF is actually helping the paramilitary forces in logistics support and training. It has successfully flown 172 casualty evacuation missions and there was no complain from any quarters. In one (mission), there is a problem. We are taking it seriously and IAF has already started an inquiry and I have asked them to speed it up. When the inquiry and detailed report come, we will take action," Antony said.

Singh has asked the Defence Ministry to institute an inquiry and take appropriate action in connection with the January 16 incident when Maoists' gunfire had forced an Indian Air Force helicopter to make emergency landing.

A state police wireless operator had suffered gunshot injuries in the incident. Singh said the conduct of the IAF men in abandoning the helicopter, their weapons and the injured wireless operator appeared to be a clear violation of Standard Operating Procedure.

This act by the members of an Armed Force of the Union is "extremely disturbing" and "reflects on their battle hardiness", Singh said in his letter to Sharma.

Giving the sequence of events, Singh said the Mi-17 helicopter was fired upon at around 1700 hours from hills surrounding the area causing injuries to the police wireless operator, who was one of the seven occupants of the chopper.

The helicopter had to land under emergency conditions at an undesignated place, 2.25 km from Chintagufa police station.

But the six IAF personnel, including two commandos of elite Garud force, abandoned the injured wireless operator and also their weapons and the helicopter, he said.

On being informed, CRPF's anti-Naxal 'CoBRA' unit jawans marched towards the area where incident took place and located the chopper at around 2200 hours. The injured wireless operator was evacuated to Chitagufa police station next morning.

The home secretary said the landing site of the helicopter at Timlewada was not properly sanitised by the Chhattisgarh police and the home ministry was taking up the issue.

"...I request you to kindly have the matter inquired into and take action as deemed fit," Singh said in his letter to the defence secretary.

PTI