Indian Army denies rape charge, Antony orders probe

March 18th, 2008 - 9:09 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) The Indian Army insisted Tuesday that none of its officers deployed on a UN mission were involved in a rape in South Africa even as an official said that Defence Minister A.K. Antony had ordered a probe. An army officer rubbished a media report that claimed a lieutenant colonel and two majors posted with the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo were involved in a rape while vacationing at the Plettenberg Bay resort in Pretoria.

The officers have since returned to Congo.

“It is clarified that the concerned officers actually averted being harassed by some unsocial elements who were intending to attract money from them,” the officer told reporters, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“The South African police intervened promptly and after finding the accusation of rape untrue did not charge the officers with any offence… The complainant also withdrew her allegation,” the officer added.

“It is reiterated that the insinuation of rape is absolutely baseless. The Indian Army personnel and contingents deployed on UN missions enjoy the highest reputation of discipline and professionalism and are contributing immensely to stabilising the situation in various disturbed parts of the world,” he said.

Giving details of the March 9 incident, he said the three officers, who were on what is termed “compulsory time off”, were seated at a bar near their hotel when they a man and woman approached them asking if they “needed anything”.

“On being turned down, the man attempted to snatch a bag of one of the officers. A scuffle ensued and the police who were patrolling the area immediately came to the spot.

“The man managed to run away but the woman was nabbed. Everyone then went to a police post where the woman admitted that she and her companion had been trying to extort money,” the officer said.

“The man was soon nabbed and the officers were advised to stay in their hotel rooms till an officer from the Indian high commission came the next morning. They were never detained or questioned,” the officer maintained.

When the incident came to light, Antony asked for a report as a South African delegation was to visit the country and he wanted to be prepared to answer any questions that might arise.

“The minister was briefed at the highest level and it was conveyed to him that there was no wrongdoing on the (Indian) officers’ part,” the officer said.

On Tuesday, after the story broke in the media, a defence ministry said Antony had ordered an enquiry into the incident.

India has the largest contingent in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo with some 4,300 personnel drawn from the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force. Some 8,000 Indian military personnel serve under the UN flag in hotspots like the Sudan, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Lebanon and the Golan Heights.

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