Maoists allegedly tried to “mislead” the MI-17 helicopters that were flown to rescue injured CRPF personnel in Sukma district of Bastar on Friday.
According to a source involved in Anti- Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh, the Maoists lit up “improvised” smoke candles to “mislead” the two choppers, one of which landed near Chintagufa village in Sukma district of Bastar and rescued five security personnel injured in an encounter with the Maoists.
“It seems to have been a trap to get the chopper land at a wrong destination and abduct the crew members. Two MI-17 choppers were deputed to rescue the injured jawans. The Maoists may have burnt some wet leaves, which were emitting heavy smoke at two different locations near the spot of the encounter to mislead the choppers,” said the source requesting anonymity.
“But the chopper landed on the exact coordinates where it was directed by the CRPF personnel present on the spot. The CRPF men lit the smoke candles after the chopper reached the exact spot and provided cover for its safe landing “, he said.
The Maoists, however, opened fire on the chopper after it took off injuring two more personnel including the gunner of the chopper M.K.Tiwari.
The second chopper was sent as a “back up” for the first chopper.
Wing commander Sandip Singh was the pilot of the chopper, which came under fire from the Maoists.
“Some CRPF doctors and three other chopper staff including Mr.Tiwari were on board the chopper,” said another officer working in Bastar.
However, Mr.Tiwari denied “noticing” any smoke to divert the chopper route.
“We were given perfect location coordinates and signals so we landed at the exact spot and were received by the CRPF IG. Even if there had been an attempt to divert the chopper route, we ignored it. There is no possibility of the chopper being misled just by smoke signals,” Mr.Tiwari told The Hindu .
But a source told The Hindu , that Mr. Singh did notice smoke at two different locations after landing.
Recounting a similar incident, a senior officer who was posted in Dantewada district of Bastar a few years ago said that the Maoists had once tried to “mislead” his chopper into Konta block of Bastar.
“The Maoists had lit huge smoke to divert our chopper at a wrong place. But our men on the ground alerted us in time and we made our landing at a safe location,” claimed the officer.
“Friday’s incident was a big trap. Had the Maoists been successful, it would have been their biggest success in many years,” said another officer privy to the anti-Maoist operations in Bastar.
Despite firing by the Maoists, the MI-17 helicopter managed to safely evacuate the injured personnel to the Jagdalpur district headquarters.
The Maoists had fired indiscriminately on another Mi-17 helicopter and had forced it to make an emergency landing near Chintagufa area of Sukma in January 2013.
The CPI (Maoist) had circulated a booklet in 2003 among its military wing cadres instructing them on the ways of gunning down a chopper.
The booklet Jang Ke Hunar ( The Art of War ) however, does not mention anything on the ways to divert the chopper.