Chopper crisis ends, Pak frees Indian crew

The Disputed Territory : Shown in green is Kas...
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ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI, 23 OCT: An Indian Army helicopter strayed into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) today and was forced by Pakistani military to land there but the crisis was quickly defused and the chopper carrying four Army personnel returned safely to Kargil.

Indian Army sources said there was no deliberate intrusion by the Cheetah helicopter, which was forced to land in Olding sector near Skardu, about 20 km from the Line of Control(LoC), and that the incident occurred due to “inclement weather.”
Expressing relief over return of its officers and helicopter which had strayed into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir due to bad weather, India today said it “greatly appreciates” the manner in which Pakistan has worked with it in resolving the matter.

“We are relieved that our officers and helicopter are back in India. We greatly appreciate the manner in which Pakistan worked with us in resolving the matter,” ministry of exteranal affairs said here.

Pakistani army said the chopper was forced to land once it “violated” the airspace over their country. An engineering officer of Lieutenant Colonel rank, two Majors(both pilots) and a JCO (technician), who were onboard the helicopter, were taken into “military custody” and questioned by Pakistani authorities.

Less than five hours after the incident, the chopper with all its crew were allowed to return and landed in Kargil just before sunset.

The Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan were in constant touch, Army sources said. The Indian High Commission in Islamabad was also in touch with the Pakistani side, the ministry of external affairs said in New Delhi. The chopper was on its way to Bhimbhat from Leh.

Pakistan’s chief military spokesman Major Gen. Athar Abbas in a statement earlier said: “An Indian helicopter was forced to land once it violated Pakistani airspace at 1 p.m. today in Olding sector near Skardu. Four persons, including three pilots, have been taken into custody.”

The Indian helicopter had intruded “deep” into Pakistani airspace, Abbas alleged but did not say how the helicopter was forced to land about 20 km inside PoK.

Indian authorities across the LoC had been informed about the incident, Abbas said. The detained Indian personnel were safe, he added. Indian Army sources said the chopper entered the airspace over PoK at around 1320 IST and returned to Kargil at 1800 IST.

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