RAIPUR/NEW DELHI: IAF helicopters today flew sorties and brought back the injured personnel from the encounter area in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, which left 14 CRPF jawans dead, to Jagdalpur in the state.
The IAF carried out multiple sorties to bring back those injured and killed in an ambush by Naxals yesterday.
Asked about certain media reports saying that IAF did not swiftly press their choppers into service, Air Force sources in New Delhi said they got the message for evacuation at 16:42 hours yesterday.
"There is a joint Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) in place for such scenarios. At the time the message came in, there was no clarity whether the landing area has been sanitised. Also, while the helicopters have night flying capabilities, it could not have landed in the dense forest in dark," the sources said.
The site of encounter is about an hour away from the base where the helicopters are stationed. Sources said, even if the area was sanitised, it would have been dark by the time the choppers reached the spot.
They underlined that the choppers took off as soon as the message came in that the area has been sanitised.
Sources pointed out that last month, the force had rescued four malaria patients in night from a nearby area in the dark.
"At that time, the landing was in plains and there was no operation on. But yesterday, it was dense forest," sources said.
They underlined that IAF was aware of the ongoing operation by the CRPF and both forces had jointly earmarked landing sites for evacuation purpose.
"But at the time the message came in, it was not clear if the landing site (about a KM away from the encounter site) was sanitised," sources said.
Incidentally, on November 21 when the IAF was carrying out a rescue operation of CRPF personnel in the same area, the chopper was fired upon by Naxals, as it took off, injuring two personnel on board and causing damage to the helicopter.
IAF has four helicopters stationed in Chattisgarh and two in Jharkhand for anti-naxal operations.