Spat Over IAF Men Fleeing Maoists 'Internal Matter': Antony

Defence Minister A K Antony today downplayed as an "internal family matter" the spat after Home Ministry raised serious questions over IAF personnel allegedly abandoning an injured policeman and an armed chopper which made an emergency landing following Maoist fire.

Antony also said the IAF has been asked to speed up its inquiry into the incident in Chhattisgarh last month.

Addressing a press conference at the Aero India, he described the issue as "an internal family matter of Government of India" and said "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill".

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. Singh described the incident as 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 complaint 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 (IAF) 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.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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