Abhinandan Varthaman: Abhinandan is back but with a rib fracture and some bruises

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NEW DELHI: Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who returned to India on Friday night after being in the Pakistan Army’s captivity has suffered a rib fracture, back contusion and some bruises. This came to light during his medical checkup at the army’s Research and Referral (R&R) hospital in Delhi, officials said on Saturday.

He also underwent a MRI scan at the hospital, which showed that he didn’t suffer spinal and brain injuries, officials said.

They added that Varthaman has suffered no ‘significant’ injuries. However, he has been admitted at the hospital for two days for observation and recuperation from a fractured rib and a back contusion. He is likely to be discharged by Tuesday. Thereafter, he will have a debriefing with top government officials, including from the Indian Air Force, on his plane crash and what happened to him during his captivity, besides his own assessment of the situation there. It will also involve his psychological evaluation.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met Varthaman with senior government officials on Saturday afternoon. The defence ministry said that she met the pilot at the R&R Hospital and inquired about his health. He was in ‘high spirits’ and was ‘happy’ to meet her, said the ministry. He is believed to have spoken to her about his captivity.

Varthaman had returned to a hero’s welcome in India on Friday night. Pakistani authorities had brought him to Wagah and after a long wait from noon he finally crossed over into Attari. From there he was taken to Amritsar and then brought to Delhi. He was taken to the R&R Hospital between 9-930 am on Saturday.

“He has an uncomplicated rib fracture. It could have been either due to the fall or people there hurting him. He doesn’t remember which one it was,” said an official.

Varthaman was flying a MiG-21 as part of a formation of IAF jets that had engaged Pakistani fighter aircraft that intruded into Indian airspace in the Sunderbani area of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday morning to target Indian military installations. He shot down a Pakistani F-16 but was hit during the engagement, and was forced to bale out in PoK, where he was captured. He had landed on the ground with a parachute. He was caught and beaten by a mob, as has emerged in a video posted on social media sites.

“He has got a few bruises on his eye and face, so we did a MRI scan to check for brain and also spine injuries. The MRI shows no injuries to the spine and brain,” said another official, adding that Varthaman did, however, suffer a back contusion which is like a bruise.

“The contusion could have been caused probably due to the fall,” added the official.

“He has been admitted to the R&R Hospital for two days for rest and observation for his injuries,” said the official.

Varthaman’s debriefing is unlikely to happen at the hospital and will take place only when he moves out of it. During the debriefing, he will be asked about the sequence of events starting from the crash to him being captured. He will also be asked about his questioning in Pakistan and his observations to gather any intelligence.



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