South Asia

Huge hunt for missing Arunachal Pradesh chief minister

File picture of Dorjee Khandu
Image caption Mr Khandu was travelling with four others

Thousands of security forces are searching for a missing helicopter carrying the chief minister of India's Arunachal Pradesh state.

The helicopter carrying Dorjee Khandu and four others went missing on Saturday morning en route to Tawang from the state capital, Itanagar.

The state government has announced a reward of 1m rupees ($22,000; £13,000) for information about the helicopter.

Bad weather has been hampering the search operation, officials said.

Reports said more than 10,000 people, including 3,000 security forces from India and neighbouring Bhutan, were engaged in a massive search in a mountainous, snow-clad region.

Satellite pictures have reportedly shown a few metal parts in the Dirang area of the West Kameng district, where the search operation is now based, government spokesman Jarbom Gamlin was quoted as saying by the state-run Doordarshan News.

Fighter jets and army helicopters have also been deployed in what is turning out to one of India's biggest search operations, which entered its fifth day on Wednesday.

Reports said that Mr Khandu's son, Tashi Tsering Khandu, has joined the search operations by foot along with a team of 100 men.

The other passengers on the helicopter were Mr Khandu's security officer Yeshi Choddak and a relative of a state lawmaker, Yeshi Lamu, and two crew members JS Babbar and KS Malick.

There were some reports on Saturday that the helicopter had landed in Bhutan, which were immediately denied by the authorities in Thimphu.

Last month, 17 people, including two children, were killed in a helicopter crash in Arunachal Pradesh.

Image caption The helicopter was on its way to Tawang

And in November, an air force helicopter crashed minutes after take off, killing all the 12 passengers on board.

A number of Indian politicians have been killed in helicopter crashes.

In 2009, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh state YS Rajasekhara Reddy was killed along with four others in a helicopter crash in southern India.

And in 1997, junior federal minister NVN Somu and two senior army officers were killed when an air force helicopter they were travelling in crashed in Arunachal Pradesh.

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