Legendary fighter pilot Saiful Azam, who was awarded Sitara-i-Jura’at for his heroics in the 1965 war against India, breathed his last in Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Sunday morning, according to officials and media reports.
The 80-year-old retired group captain died at his residence, local newspaper Jugantor said. He had been suffering from various old-age complications for a long time.
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Bangladeshi army’s mouthpiece Inter Service Public Relation Directorate also confirmed the death to Anadolu Agency over the phone.
“We came to know about his death but we have not published it on our official web page as he is a retired official,” ISPR Director Lt. Col. Abdullah Ibn Zaid said.
Pakistan Air Force Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan expressed heartfelt grief on the demise of the great war veteran, according to a press release by PAF's media wing. The air chief paid rich tribute to Azam, saying that the former fighter pilot will always be remembered for his professionalism and his part in the 1965 Indo-Pak and 1967 Arab-Israel wars.
According to APP, Azam was born in then East Bengal's Pabna District in 1941. He left home at 18 to enlist in PAF and was commissioned as a Pakistani fighter pilot in 1960.
During the 1965 war, he served in No. 17 Squadron at PAF's Sargodha base. Apart from inflicting heavy damage to Indian forces in 12 ground-attack missions, Azam also downed an Indian Air Force aircraft and was awarded Sitara-i-Jura’at.
According to available records, Azam is a unique air force figure in the history of Bangladesh who took part in wars as a fighter pilot of three different countries — Jordan, Iraq and Pakistan. He is the only fighter pilot who downed four Israeli aircraft during the 1967 Arab-Israel war, which is also a world record.
The United States government also awarded him as one of the world's 22 “Living Eagles” for his outstanding war skills and courage.
After Bangladesh's cessation in 1971, the veteran fighter joined the Bangladesh Air Force. Azam, also a former lawmaker from Bangladesh’s mid-northern Pabna-3 constituency, was regarded as a legendary figure by Bangladeshi people due to his untouched records as a fighter pilot.
In 1980, he retired from the military and developed a career in the civil service and later became a politician.