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Pakistan scrambled jet to intercept Indian chopper

world Updated: Oct 24, 2011 16:22 IST

Pakistan had scrambled a fighter jet after an Indian helicopter flew into its territory and the chopper was warned that it would be fired at if it attempted to escape, a media report said on Monday.

Pakistan on Sunday forced the Indian Army helicopter to land for violating its airspace.

Islamabad, later, permitted the three officers and a junior commissioned officer and the helicopter to return after interrogating them for a couple of hours, military sources told Dawn.

The Cheetah helicopter of India's Army Aviation Corps with four officers on board returned to Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir around 6 p.m., ending an inadvertent intrusion that immediately triggered urgent talks between the two foreign and military establishments. For the first time in many years, the two countries did not rachet up an incident like this.

Sources said that a Pakistan Air Force plane was scrambled immediately after spotting the helicopter and simultaneously the Air Defence, through its communication system, warned those on board that they would come under fire if they tried to escape.

The helicopter was deep inside Pakistani territory when it was intercepted and forced to land in the Olding sector near the Line of Control (LoC).

"The helicopter was some 20 kilometres inside Pakistan's territory when it was intercepted and forced to land near Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan, at about 1 p.m.," an air force officer was quoted as saying.

During the questioning, the helicopter crew said the chopper strayed due to bad weather and no deliberate attempt had been made to intrude.

The media report pointed out that though Indian aircraft had violated Pakistan's airspace in the past, it was perhaps for the first time that a chopper was forced to land.

The intrusion was the first such incident after the Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's May 2 killing by US Navy Seals who flew into Abbottabad on Stealth choppers.

India had been promptly told about the incident, said sources who added that a probe was underway to see if it was a mistake or a deliberate attempt to test Pakistan's defence capabilities.

An official said the crew were freed within a few hours to give benefit of doubt because Pakistan did not want to vitiate the atmosphere and derail the composite dialogue process.