Crew did not abandon injured cop, faced ‘hostage situation’: IAF chief

Air chief N A K Browne

Indian Air Force Chief N A K Browne on Thursday dismissed allegations that an IAF crew had abandoned an injured Chhattisgarh policeman in the Naxal-affected area last month, adding that they had left to avoid a "hostage situation".

Addressing a press conference at the Aero India show here, Browne said: "The impression that they abandoned, they ran away, I think this is all nonsense... It is a combat zone and bullets were flying as firing continued for half-an-hour or so... By this time it was dark... There is an issue that the captain and the crew decided that if they were to split up, there was a hostage situation because that area was full of such people."

He added: "If anyone of them had been taken hostage, there would have been another crisis unfolding in the next few weeks."

Browne was referring to the January 18 incident, when Maoists fired at an IAF chopper and forced it to crash-land in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. A wireless operator with the Chhattisgarh Police who was injured in the attack was left behind by the IAF crew.

Browne said the injured policeman was later evacuated in "an armoured car... and taken to Raipur in our chopper... he is not critical... One of our officers met him and he was sitting on a sofa having tea," said Browne.

He also dismissed reports that the IAF crew had left behind guns on the chopper, saying the machine gun had jammed while crash-landing.

Browne expressed surprise that the letter, in which Home Secretary R K Singh had asked Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma to take action against the IAF personnel, had been leaked to the media.

"This is not the way to function in situations like this," he said, warning that "if we keep sniping like this", a Kashmir-like situation, where forces inimical to the country's interest created divisions between security forces and security agencies, could be repeated in the Maoist areas.

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