New Delhi: The five terrorists killed in an intense operation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Keran sector over the weekend were heavily armed with AK-47s and ammunition as well as Pakistani masala tikka flavoured ‘namkeen’ and mixed pickle, among others.
Every single item carried by the terrorists, identified as operatives of the Pakistan-backed terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, including medicines, biscuits, pre-cooked food and others, were made in Pakistan, sources told ThePrint.
The Army recovered five AK-47s, two Under Barrel Grenade Launchers, two pistols, ammunition and satellite radio communication equipment, among others, the sources added.
Pictures of the recoveries showed that the five terrorists brought a lot of medicines including morphine, edible items such as figs and cashew nuts and even flavoured drink mix Tang.
“This operation clearly shows the complicity of Pakistan in aiding and abetting infiltration and, as a consequence, terrorism in the valley. This act of Pakistan is especially reprehensible because when the whole world is fighting Covid-19 and its aftermath, here is Pakistan aiding and abetting infiltration,” said Lt Gen. B.S. Raju, the general officer commanding of Srinagar-based 15 Corps.
The sources said the operation — in which five personnel of the elite 4 Para were also killed in a close, hand-to-hand combat with the terrorists — was named ‘Randori Behak’.
While ThePrint had reported the sequence of events based on the initial information Monday, more details have now emerged about the operation, including that the Special Forces team actually had a sixth member who survived to tell the story of the heroic fight that ensued.
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How the operation was started
The footprints of the terror operatives were noticed near the Line of Control (LoC) at first light on 1 April.
Sources said the fence on the LoC was fully buried due to heavy snow. The area is completely rigged with a razor sharp ridge line and all routes cut off due to high snow levels.
The terrorists, backed by the Pakistan Army, which indulged in ceasefire violation the previous night, attempted to exploit inclement weather, added the sources.
As soon as the footprints were noticed, search parties of 8 Jat were launched. There was brief contact at approximately 1 pm on 1 April after the terrorists’ movement was picked up by specialised radars.
Upon further search, five bags dumped by the terrorists were recovered. While they had managed to escape, additional troops were launched and the area cordoned off.
The trail was followed at first light on 2 April. Contact was re-established at 4.30 pm but the terrorists managed to escape by jumping off a ledge. The search continued on 3 April and a third contact was established at 4.30 pm, and again at 6.30 pm on 4 April.
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The induction of Special Forces
As the terrain was hard on regular soldiers and the terrorists were still in hiding, a decision was taken to bring in the Special Forces, said the sources.
Based on the terrorists’ location from drone visuals, two teams were brought in from 4 Para, an elite Army unit that was also involved in the 2016 surgical strikes.
The commandos were air dropped from helicopters into the tough terrain where the snow was as high as the chest level.
The Special Forces commandos began their operation as Subedar Sanjeev Kumar spotted the terrorists’ footsteps and followed the trail.
It took them to a cornice — a mass of hardened snow at the edge of a mountain. As the soldiers stepped on it, the cornice broke and three of them including Kumar, the squad leader, fell into a frozen nallah.
While two men fell straight into the nallah, three were able to take support of a boulder. One’s fall was arrested by a tree.
This was right where the terrorists were hiding. The fall took every one of them by surprise. Within seconds, the area lit up with gun flashes as the terrorists opened fire. The two soldiers who had managed to evade the fall jumped in.
In the close combat that ensued, four terrorists were shot dead. One managed to run for a few metres before being shot dead with a bullet to his back.
“Body of one of the commandos was found literally on top of a terrorist. So you can imagine how close the combat was,” a source who didn’t wish to be identified had told ThePrint Monday.
While three soldiers were killed in action on the spot, two others were injured. The Army launched a massive rescue operation for them, but the weather and terrain proved a major hindrance. Both were eventually evacuated Sunday but succumbed to their injuries at the Army hospital in Srinagar.
The soldiers killed in action were Subedar Sanjeev Kumar, Havildar Davendra Singh, and sepoys Bal Krishan, Amit Kumar and Chhatrapal Singh.
Amit Kumar took 15 bullets to his chest, and his was the body that was found almost on top of a terrorist, said the sources.
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(This report has been updated with new information about a sixth member of the Special Forces team, who survived the battle.)