New Delhi: Two-year-old Axel, a Belgian Malinois of the army’s elite assault dog squad, was shot dead by a terrorist in Kashmir’s Baramulla district Sunday, minutes after the canine soldier sniffed out the hiding terrorist.
Army sources said that initially, another assault dog, Bajaj, went in first to sanitise the building in Baramulla’s Wanigam Bala village.
Axel was deployed after the first room of the building had been sanitised. Sources said that the dog first entered the same room and cleared it. As soon as he entered the second room, he was fired upon by a terrorist hiding there.
An exchange of fire ensued between the troops and the terrorists, and once the operation was over, Axel’s body was retrieved. Axel’s handler also sustained superficial injuries, the sources said.
It is understood that Axel latched onto the terrorist despite being shot at, as the dog’s post-mortem report showed that besides the bullet entry and exit wounds, he sustained more than ten other wounds along with a fracture on his femur.
Army sources said Axel’s bravery helped save the lives of the soldiers who were part of the operation as room intervention is very risky.
The canine soldier, who had just turned two last month, belonged to the 26 Army Dog Unit and was in operation with the 29 Rashtriya Rifles.
A wreath laying ceremony was held at the headquarters, 10 Sector Rashtriya Rifles, Sunday, which was attended by Maj. Gen. SS Slaria, general officer commanding (GoC) of the counter insurgency force Kilo, and representatives of the Jammu & Kashmir Police.
The 26 Army Dog Unit (ADU) and Axel’s handler also paid their last respects to the fallen canine. The burial of the brave dog will take place in 26 ADU premises.
Canines’ critical role in army operations
ThePrint has last year reported that elite units of the army are likely to get the Belgian Malinois, a specialised attack canine being trained for assault operations in urban areas.
Known for their agility, sharp mind and spectacular endurance and aggression, the Belgian Malinois is a favourite of special forces and enforcement agencies around the world.
In India, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was the first to introduce the breed in anti-Naxal operations.
The army also uses Labradors and German Shepherds in operations and the Great Swiss Mountain Dog in snow-bound areas, besides Cocker Spaniels in limited numbers prior to getting the Malinois.
The canines play a critical role in operations and many of them have won battle honours, such as commendations from GOCs and even the chief of army staff.
For instance, Mansi, a four-year-old Labrador, had become the first canine selected for a posthumous war honour, after she and her handler Bashir Ahmed War laid down their lives countering an infiltration bid by terrorists in north Kashmir in 2015.
Mansi was honoured with the ‘Mention of Despatches’ certificate, acknowledging her contribution to the army.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)