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IAF to deploy commandos in choppers flying in Naxal-hit areas

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Garuds: Youngest Special Force of Indian Air Force. A file photo

HINDON (PTI): The IAF said it will deploy its commando units to defend its helicopters and men on board in Naxal-infested areas, but made it clear that they would not carry out any "rambo-style" operation against the Maoists.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik told reporters here on Thursday that the Garud Special Forces would be present in the helicopters flying in Maoist-hit areas for rescue operations and would defend their personnel and equipment by warding-off attacks by Naxals on them.

"It is not a free for all like 'rambo' that we will go and fire in the countryside. The helicopters operating for casualty evacuation will be mounted with guns and the Garud force will man them," Naik said on the sidelines of the 77th Air Force Day parade here.

Asked about the IAF request to the government to allow opening of fire in self-defence, he said the Cabinet Committee on Security will decide the matter.

"I want to reiterate that I am totally against armed forces -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- being used in internal situations. We are meant to defend threats from across the border," he said.

Naik, however, said, "If the states requires any help we are always there to give it in terms of casualty evacuation and insertion (of security forces), he added.

Referring to the killing of an IAF personnel in a Naxal attack on a helicopter during Chattisgarh Assembly elections last year, Naik said this made the IAF request the Defence Ministry to permit it to open fire in self-defence.

He said the request was to ensure that the IAF could protect its personnel and platforms and suppress the fire coming on to a helicopter.

"We are not indulging in any armed aggression against any citizen of India. We would only like to undertake operations to protect our helicopters and men and women who fly these (air) hospitals," he said.

Stating that the helicopter's commander should give permission to open fire in case of a decision by the CCS, Naik said, "There will be very stringent stipulations to help identify where the fire is coming from, and where to use minimum force to ensure minimum collateral damage."

He maintained that the Air Force was not deploying its armed helicopters or aircraft to bomb any area in Naxalite- affected regions.

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