Sunday, February 17, 2008

IAF copters join hunt for naxalites

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The government has drafted the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the hunt for Communist Party of India (Maoists) activists who had attacked police stations in Orissa on Friday night and decamped with several weapons and ammunition after killing over a dozen policemen.

Official sources said the IAF had set up a task force, headed by a senior officer, to oversee the search and reconnaissance operations. Two Chetak helicopters under his command took off from Bhubaneshwar on Saturday in an attempt to locate the fleeing Maoists, about 12 hours after they had concluded the operations with no casualty to their rank and file.

Other sources said the IAF’s assistance does not deviate from the policy of the armed forces not to intervene in counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists in central India. The IAF had earlier provided unmanned aerial vehicles to track Maoists but after a couple of initial successes, their efficacy had blunted leading to their withdrawal.

The IAF has also provided air support for reconnaissance operations before polls in some Maoist affected States but has so far steadfastly stayed away from using air power in the country’s heartland.

The Army too has declined to be drawn into anti-Maoist operations though the Chattisgarh government has drafted some of its former servicemen to train its security personnel in identifying and defusing improvised explosive devices and using mine detectors and jammers.

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