Hit by ‘Naxal fire’, IAF chopper crashlands in Chhattisgarh

FP

In the first incident of its kind, an Indian Air Force Mi-17 helicopter on its way to rescue policemen injured in an encounter with Maoists crash-landed Friday after the extremists fired at it in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district, officials said.

Six IAF personnel, including two Garud commandos, who were on the chopper, managed to walk to a CRPF camp a few kilometres away. However, they left behind the Chhattisgarh police wireless operator M R Sahu who was injured in the thigh, possibly by a bullet.

Police sources said the injured policeman lay inside the unguarded helicopter in the dense jungle for at least two hours until more than 100 CRPF men reached the spot, secured the aircraft and moved Sahu to a hospital on a motorcycle.

"The six IAF personnel walked to the nearby CRPF camp after the helicopter crashlanded. One of our constables who was on board was injured and could not come back. We are yet to ascertain why the IAF personnel left him behind," Abhishek Shandilya, SP of Sukma, said.

The CRPF men will stay at the spot through the night before the helicopter can be repaired and made fit to fly. The Maoists have made attempts in the past to target choppers on evacuation duty, but this is the first time they were able to force one down.

The helicopter was on its way to rescue constable Besuram Mandawi and assistant platoon commander Nand Kishore, who were injured in a gun battle in the jungles of Sukma district.

It was looking for a landing spot and flying low when it came under fire, officials said. Mandawi died as he could not be evacuated in time. Nand Kishore is being treated at a police camp.

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