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May 30, 1999
Pilot killed in 'cold blood': IAF
Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, the pilot of the MiG-21 that was shot down on Thursday in the Kargil sector, was killed in cold blood by the Pakistan army, a senior Indian Air Force official said after receiving post-mortem reports from Srinagar.
"It was a cold blooded murder... An act of cowardice by Pakistani army regulars... His friends and colleagues in the air force are determined to avenge his death,'' Air Vice-Marshal S K Malik, additional assistant chief of air staff of air operations said.
AVM Malik said this kind of an act had not happened in Kosovo where NATO forces were engaging an enemy unlike the operations in Kargil where Indian forces were fighting infiltrators on their own soil. Three US personnel were returned unharmed by Yugoslavia after they were captured in Kosovo.
India today lodged a strong protest with Pakistan about the brutal manner in which Squadron Leader Ahuja was killed after he parachuted down on Pakistani soil on Thursday.
Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner Akbar Zaid was summoned to the external affairs ministry and told that India "strongly condemns this act of cowardice and savagery".
Zaid was asked to identify those responsible for the act and prosecute and punish them for the murder.
A spokesman said India also told Zaid that while the Pakistani proposal for the visit of Foreign Secretary Sartaj Aziz is under consideration, New Delhi would insist on the retreat of the Pakistani intruders in Kashmir.
The post-mortem report showed that Squadron Leader Ahuja was killed by two bullets, one of which went through the right ear and the other that damaged the internal viscera after penetrating the left side of the chest. He also suffered a compound fracture on his left knee which could have happened after ejection.
The officer's MiG-21 came under attack while he was on the Indian side of the Line of Control trying to spot K Nachiketa, the pilot of a MiG-27 that developed engine trouble so that ground help could be sent to him.
Squadron Leader Ahuja, who belonged to Bhatinda in Punjab, and Flight Lieutenant Nachiketa both parachuted to the other side of the LoC. While Flight Lieutenant Nachiketa was captured, Squadron Leader Ahuja was killed. AVM Malik said there was no indication why one was spared and the other killed.
Squadron Leader Ahuja's body was flown to Bhatinda this morning aboard a special IAF aircraft. He is survived by his parents, his wife Alka and a five-year-old son Ankur. He was cremated this afternoon with full military honours. Ankur lit the pyre amid chanting of religious hymns.
Prominent among those present at the cremation were Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh, Lieutenant General G K Gulati, a large number of military and airforce officers, senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader K L Sharma and former Youth Congress president M S Bitta.
Badal said a statue of the IAF officer will be erected at the Bhisiana chowk on the Bhatinda-Muktsar road. The government school of Killi Nihal Singhwala (Bhisina) will also be named after Squadron Leader Ahuja.
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