Friday, December 27, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

MiG crashes into house
Man killed, JuM claims responsibility
Tribune News Service and agency

Srinagar, December 26
A MiG-21 fighter aircraft crashed into a house near the local air base here, killing a man and injuring his son, as the IAF ruled out “any external action” for the mishap.

The aircraft crashed at 2.25 p.m. as it was coming in to land at the Srinagar airport after an “operational sortie” but the pilot, Flying Officer B.K. Singh, bailed out. He broke his left arm and was rushed to hospital.

The aircraft crashed into the house of Ghulam Ahmed Ganai at Lalgam village of Budgam district, about 4 km from the airport. While Ganai was killed, his son was injured and their house which caught fire was completely destroyed, Air Force sources said.

Quoting preliminary information, the IAF spokesman, Sqn Ldr R.K. Dhingra, said in Delhi that the possibility of the aircraft being hit by a missile or ground fire was ruled out.

His comments came in the backdrop of the security forces seized Pakistani-made shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile “Anza” from militant hideouts in the border district of Kupwara recently.

He said: “A Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the accident to see whether the mishap was caused by a bird-hit or technical or human error”. He, however, ruled out “any external action” for the crash.

The aircraft which had a normal sortie of 30-35 minutes would have flown almost over the entire northern Kashmir area bordering Pakistan.

Both Ganai and his son were rushed to the Army Base hospital, where the man was declared dead, the sources said.

Senior police and security officials have reached the spot and a cordon has been laid around the village, they said.

The MiG-21 was of the type-75 variant. As many as 17 of these aircraft have crashed this year alone, with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence repeatedly asking the government to phase them out.

The government has ruled out phasing out of these warplanes, saying that massive upgradation of the MiGs was under way with Russian, French and Israeli collaboration.

Meanwhile, radical pro-Pakistan militant outfit Jamiat-ul Mujahideen (JeM) claimed its cadre shot down the plane.

A person claiming to be the spokesman for the outfit said on the phone that JuM men fired a missile at the plane causing it to crash.

He said the plane was shot down in response to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s appeal to militants yesterday asking them to surrender arms.

“We will not lay down arms and every such appeal would be met with the same reaction”, he added. PTI 

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