Archive for September 2009
This India Today article is interesting, but largely misses the point:
They [the Maoists] are said to be attacking telecom towers to prevent the police eavesdropping on their conversations, and to neutralise police informers.
True enough as it goes… but, in a country which effectively bypassed land-lines, particularly in rural areas, disabling poorly defended mobile towers is an effective means of paralysing all rapid local communication.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the body of YSR Reddy, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, and four others have been recovered from the crash site.
A couple of things before I turn in for the night. As more information comes in, it seems increasingly likely that the helicopter crash was the result of a number of factors entirely unrelated to the Naxalites. A reader of mine who is a professional helicopter pilot suggested that it was likely that, given the inclement weather, the helicopter was flying low (possibly at high speeds) to avoid the clouds. Comparable weather and terrain contributed to a fatal crash of a similar helicopter in the neighbouring Bastar forests last year.
Furthermore, some reports claim that the CM’s chopper was not airworthy, although at this point claims such as this ought to be met with a great deal of skepticism.
Finally, it has been pointed out that even if the Naxals did possess anti-aircraft or other high-calibre weaponry, the density of the areas forest cover makes it nearly impossible to secure an adequate field of vision. And while it is possible to bring down a chopper with small arms fire, it’s unlikely especially if the target is moving at a high speed.
A good site which has up-to-the-minute coverage of all relevant information on the crash of the CM of Andhra’s helicopter near Kurnool.
Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s helicopter has apparently been located by Indian authorities 70 km west of Kurnool. There are no reports on either the state of the helicopter or the passengers.
The kind of terrain the security forces are facing (2005 photograph of Naxalite column in the Nallamalla Forest):
(Source: AP Mustafa Quraishi)
A couple of things… while the NSA has stated that it is unlikely that the CM’s helicopter was brought down by the Naxalites because they lack the weaponry for such a strike, this runs contrary to some previous reports. According to the Indian Express, material was seized during a raid by Jharkhand police in August 2007 which indicated that:
the extremists have been training in the use of 12.7 mm anti-aircraft guns and have already acquired 80 mm mortars and rocket-propelled grenade rifles.
The Economic Times has also claimed that unnamed ‘reports’ suggest that the Naxalites have acquired a number of anti-aircraft guns. While the Times is… umm… a little bit vague on the details, it is a surprise that the NSA has so soon and so unequivocally stated that the Naxalites do not possess the capabilities to undertake a strike against a helicopter. It’s a bit premature.
India’s National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan has all but ruled out that the disappearance of the helicopter carrying Andhra’s CM had anything to do with the Maoists. Narayanan:
Naxal strike seems extremely improbable. I would almost entirely rule it out. I do not think the Naxalites have the capability to bring down the helicopter.
At present, the massive search and rescue operation has been halted due to heavy rains that have rendered the dense forests around the last known location of the helicopter virtually impassible. Will the Naxalites be able to get there first? While the Nallamlla forests are no longer the Maoist strongholds that they were in the early half of the decade, armed guerrilla fighters still have a significant presence.
This is significant enough for me to break my end-of-summer hiatus. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh’s helicopter disappeared this morning while flying over a Maoist controlled area. According to the BBC:
The helicopter carrying Mr Reddy and four others took off from Hyderabad’s Begumpet airport at 0845 IST (0315 GMT) bound for the village of Anupally in Chittoor district.
It was scheduled to land at 1045 but went missing at 0936 while flying over Kurnool district.
Sixteen hours after the crash, neither the helicopter nor the CM have been located. Whether the chopper was brought down by the Maoists or whether it had to land due to inclement weather is still unclear. If the Maoists are found to have been involved in anyway, it will likely trigger a significant police/military response. I’ll continue to monitor over the next few days.