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Congo mess: army pilots to fly home

Indian peacekeepers, who have served in UN missions for over 55 years, have never been involved in any such controversy, reports Rahul Singh.
Hindustan Times | By Rahul Singh, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 19, 2008 02:30 AM IST

After 500 Indian peacekeepers serving in Congo were awarded the MONUC (United Nations Organisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) medal for their professionalism last year, three Army aviators have been accused of raping a woman in South Africa.

The aviators have been asked to return home, government sources said on Tuesday, even though the woman has withdrawn her complaint.

Sources said Indian diplomats secured their release from the South African police after negotiations.

Indian peacekeepers, who have served in UN missions for over 55 years, have never been involved in any such controversy until three officers, a lieutenant colonel and two majors, from a Recce and Observation Flight were accused of rape in Pretoria while on holiday.

Defence Minister AK Antony has asked the army to initiate strict action against the officers, who were part of the North Kivu brigade.

The army, has put up a stout defence of the officers arguing that a rogue couple had tried to frame them. Army sources said an investigation by the South African police found the rape charge was false and later, the woman withdrew her complaint. There are clashing versions of what happened on the night of March 11. According to army sources, the incident took place when the avaiators strolling along Mussel Bay where they were accosted by a couple to extort money.

When their efforts failed, army sources said, the man fled and the woman cried rape.

However, the sequence of events given by government sources was different. Sources said that as per the complaint filed by the woman, the officers were having drinks in a bar where they met the couple.

“All of them had drinks together. The lady invited the army officers to her house in Plettenberg. They were there all night having drinks and cannabis. In the meantime, the lady’s partner disappeared. In the morning, she asked them to shell out money. She filed a complaint when they did not pay up,” the government sources said, adding that the peacekeepers were in police custody for over 24 hours.

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