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Crashed helicopter of popular Indian politician found

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A helicopter that crashed while carrying one of the most popular politicians in southern India, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, was found Thursday in thick jungle area believed to controlled by Maoists rebels.

The incident had highlighted the stark differences that exist in India: a minister jetting off to a meeting in a modern helicopter crashes in an impenetrable forest roamed by tigers and insurgents.

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His disappearance triggered one of the largest manhunts in recent Indian history, combining hi-tech fighter planes and low-tech forest tracks.

The authorities have ruled out the possibility that Maoist rebels downed Reddy’s helicopter, the BBC reports. The most likely explanation is bad weather.

Still, the forest where his helicopter went missing has a history as a Maoist rebel stronghold, reports the Daily News & Analysis service in India.

The Nallamalla hills, stretching across Kurnool, Prakasam and Kadapa districts, while being extremely inhospitable, have also been the hotbed of Maoist activity. It has also been the staging ground for battles between Maoists and the state's anti-Maoist strike force, the Greyhounds...Though their numbers has declined in recent times, some Maoist groups still exist in the forests.

Reddy is seen as one of the ruling Congress party’s most vibrant and successful politicians, a key player in his party’s future, as the Times of India profiles:

Realpolitik has been YSR's real strength. In a party that's well-known for destabilizing [Chief Ministers], Reddy has completely broken the back of all rebels. What's more, he has been able to cut to size the Telangana movement and the Maoists whose writ runs in large parts of [Andhra Pradesh]. Reddy also knows well how to garner resources from the Centre.

His disappearance triggered an extraordinary marshalling of state power to find him.

A platoon of helicopters, a fighter jet with a thermal imagining device, and a plane with a remote sensing device have been called into action in the air. On the ground, the Greyhounds, a special commando force trained to attack Maoists rebels, has been sweeping through the forest using night-vision goggles. Alongside them are the Chenu tribe “who hunt with bows and arrows,” and who “know the forests like the back of their hands,” reports the International Business Times of India.

An additional “5,000 personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force,” have also been combing the dense jungles, reports Forbes India.

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But even modern technology can have a hard time penetrating the forest of Nallamalla, “home to varied wildlife like tigers, leopards, panthers, bear, and black buck,” according to the Daily News & Analysis.

India’s International Business Times adds:

The last time a chopper disappeared over the thick forests of Andhra Pradesh, it took three months to trace the machine and retrieve the bodies.