[Exclusive] Inside story of India's daring surgical strikes against Pakistan

It was a near-perfect, textbook operation filmed on helmet-mounted cameras used by commandos.

 |  Bite Soldier  |  6-minute read |   07-10-2016
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Up in the skies and beyond the range of enemy radars, 30 Indian commandos armed with Kalashnikovs, Tavors, rocket-propelled guns and thermobaric weapons deploy parachutes on a dark, cold moonless night for a rare military insertion to ambush terror assets on the rugged Himalayan terrain of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. 

No audio devices on the ground are able to pick up any sound either as they plummet down from a freezing height of 35,000 feet. Simultaneously, seven other crews of the Indian army's dauntless Special Forces walk, crawl and slither through Pakistani barricades across the Line of Control. 

All eight teams of the deadly warriors reach their targets without detection and annihilate them with a sudden thunder of explosions, smoke bombs and gunfire. 

Highly-placed military sources have exclusively shared with India Today the lowdown of the covert surgical strikes of the September 28 night, from their planning to meticulous execution. 

Here's the timeline, as accessed by India Today, of the entire inside story that began in Uri on September 18 and culminated in the destruction of terror infrastructure across the LoC ten days later.    

surgical-strike-use-_100716081524.jpg Highly-placed military sources have exclusively shared with India Today the lowdown of the covert surgical strikes of the September 28 night. [Photo credit: PTI]

THE PROVOCATION  

September 18, 2016: Terrorists attack Uri camp 

On September 18, a Jaish-e-Mohammad fidayeen group attacked the administrative station of the Indian Army's 12 Brigade, killing 19 soldiers.

Data on GPS sets seized from the slain terrorists suggested Pakistan links. Two local guides captured after the Uri raid also revealed how the Pakistani army helped the fidayeen sneak into India.

A wave of unyielding anger soon gripped the nation. 

September 21, 2016: India summons Pakistan envoy 

Three days later, India's foreign secretary S Jaishankar summoned Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit and shared evidence of Pakistani involvement in the Uri attack, which Islamabad rejected. 

September 22, 2016: Sharif provokes India at UNGA 

On September 22, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif delivered a highly provocative speech at the United Nations General Assembly, hailing Hizbul commander Burhan Wani as a hero. 

In Delhi, top Indian decision-makers geared up to respond befittingly to Pakistan. Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag and director general of military operations Lt-Gen Ranbir Singh briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and national security advisor Ajit Doval on the whole range of military options for retaliation. 

At the same time, Pakistan sensed trouble after India media ran reports about possible revenge strikes. Islamabad activated its radar systems along the Line of Control and the International Boundary. It also deployed the Swedish Saab 2000, an early airborne-warning and control aircraft, to monitor airspace over Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. 

PLOTTING REVENGE September 23, 2016: Modi takes war-room briefing 

On the night of September 23, Prime Minister Modi visited the army's top-secret war room at Raisina Hill's South Block. The three service chiefs briefed him and the NSA about India's next course of action. The meeting was attended by RAW Secretary Rajendar Khanna, Intelligence Bureau director Dineshwar Sharma and NTRO chief Alok Joshi. 

Meanwhile, ISRO's earth-observation satellites were re-calibrated to zoom their cameras on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as unmanned aerial vehicles launched close monitoring of terror pads in PoK. Besides, RAW deployed its human assets closest to the eight demarcated launch-pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, ordering them to send regular updates on militant movements.  

Inside Pakistan, RAW also activated its assets in Rawalpindi and Islamabad to monitor the movements of the Pakistan army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, and also of the 10 Corps commander, Lt Gen Malik Zafar Iqbal. The force commander of Northern Areas was another Pakistani general whose movements came under Indian observation. 

RAW's brief was simple: keep a hawk's eye and report back any unusual meetings. 

In Delhi, the three service chiefs and the heads of the intelligence agencies switched off their mobile phones. Their cellular footprints were also erased across all networks. All of their subsequent meetings were held incognito, without uniform or staff cars for transportation, and far from Raisina Hills in a bid to tightly cover the movements of India's top heavy hitters. 

Commanding officers of the 4 and 9 Para battalions of the Army's Special Forces were then briefed about their upcoming mission. They were asked to handpick their most lethal warriors. 

MOBILISING SPECIAL FORCES 

Soon, Mi-17 transport helicopters started ferrying commandos and their equipment to forward areas along the Line of Control, where they were told to wait for the green signal. Northern Army Commander Lt-Gen DS Hooda tasked the 6 Bihar and 10 Dogra battalions, which suffered casualties in the Uri attack, to deploy their Ghatak commandos for the crucial operation.

Their Ghatak teams then joined the strike force at launch locations along the LoC 

September 26, 2016 

On September 26, NSA Doval held a key meeting with the three service chiefs and intelligence heads. Operational details are finalised for eight synchronised raids along a 250km arc. 

The plan was drawn for Indian forces to infiltrate terrain held by three divisions of the Pakistani army, with commandos penetrating a depth of 500 metres to three kilometres across the Line of Control.  

THE EXECUTION 

September 28-29 

On the moonless night before amavasya, Operation Surgical Strikes took off after the midnight hour. Across the LoC, Indian Army's elite commando teams slipped through the barricades, disappearing into the night, on the other side. Pakistani radars and early airborne warning aircraft were unable to detect the intrusions carried out on foot. 

Around the same time, one team of 30 para commandos was air dropped from special High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) parachutes. The HAHO technique for paratroopers to jump down from up to 35,000 feet above the surface aimed at evading Pakistani radars and listening devices. 

The commandos, equipped with GPS gadgets, landed with pin-point precision, close to a terror launch pad deep inside PoK. Heightened alert in Pakistani aside, the other seven commando teams also reached their targets without detection.  

The para commandos were armed with Tavor 21 and AK-47 assault rifles and also rocket-propelled guns and Russian thermobaric weapons. 

In swift, synchronised attacks, snipers with silencers silenced sentries at terror camps as commandos made quick incisions into the shelters and unleashed a barrage of fire on terrorists. They stormed the camps and recovered rocket launchers and machine guns from inside. 

THE DECEPTION 

At 2.30am, Indian artillery units opened a diversionary fire to confuse Pakistani defence forces, pounding enemy posts. Pakistan retaliated heavily.

In the loud noise and confusion along the LoC, Indian commandos started slipping back, unchallenged. 

Enemy troops scurried to their bunkers, leaving the terrain clear for the Special Forces teams to return to the Indian side. The enemy was deceived. Pakistan's army had no clue what hit them. 

THE EXTRICATION   

One commando stepped on a land-mine during exit and injured himself. There was no other Indian casualty.

In military terms, it's a near-perfect, textbook operation filmed on helmet-mounted cameras used by the Special Forces commandos. The paras also take images on their still cameras. From the skies, UAVs and low-orbit NTRO satellite tape the entire action, a top army source told India Today.  

The objective of the Indian army, the source added, was successfully achieved.

By 9am of September 29, all commandos were back to their base. 

A Cabinet Committee on Security was called to review the outcome of the operation. Soon after 11am, the Indian DGMO Lt-Gen Ranbir Singh, as per protocol, informed his Pakistani counterpart about the successful Indian raid in PoK.

Also read: I served in Indian Army, I'm ashamed you doubt surgical strikes 

Watch: Jammu and Kashmir Line of Control explained

 

Writer

Rahul Kanwal Rahul Kanwal @rahulkanwal

Managing Editor, TV Today Network - @Aajtak Fiercely non-aligned.

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