Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy was missing on Wednesday after a helicopter carrying him went off the radar over a dense forest area where Maoist rebels are active.
Search on: Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s helicopter disappeared over the Nallamalla forest area in heavy rains at 9.35am. Bharath Sai / Mint
Central and state authorities deployed search aircraft and police and paramilitary personnel to trace the helicopter, but were unable to locate it, state chief secretary Ramakant Reddy said. The aircraft had to be withdrawn from the search in the evening because of poor light and bad weather. Ground searches continued into the night.
National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan, in an interview to CNN-IBN, ruled out the involvement of Maoist rebels, saying they didn’t have the capability of bringing down a helicopter.
Reddy, 60, who led the Congress party to victory for a second term in the state assembly election in May, was on his way from Hyderabad to Chittoor in the Rayalaseema region of southern Andhra Pradesh when the helicopter went missing.
The state-owned twin engine, seven-seater Bell-430 helicopter disappeared over the Nallamalla forest area in heavy rains at 9.35am, about an hour after it took off, officials said.
Chief secretary Reddy said in the evening the state government had sought the assistance of the National Remote Sensing Authority, or NRSA, in Bangalore to press its low-flying aircraft, capable of flying even in inclement weather, into the search efforts.
The state has also initiated measures through the government of India to approach the US for real-time satellite images of the Nallamalla forest area, he said.
Y.S.R. Reddy, who had won his first term as chief minister in 2004, was with his secretary P. Subramaniyam and chief security officer A.S.C. Wesley.
Andhra Pradesh is among 11 states where Maoist guerrillas, known as Naxalites, have waged a campaign of violence for four decades.
Telugu Desam party chief and former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu narrowly escaped an assasination attempt by Maoist rebels in 2003 while on his way to the Tirumala temple town.
(‘Bloomberg’ contributed to this story.)