29th September is the day of extreme significance for Indian Army as on this day in 2016, the army conducted ‘surgical strikes’ across the border at Pakistan soil and dealt huge blow to enemies. On the eve of its anniversary, NewsX brings you the exclusive inside details of surgical strikes narrated first hand by Indian brave hearts who carried out the strikes.
The Indian soldiers broke the story down in bits and pieces, and told NewsX how Indian Army meticulously identified the target, set up a strategy and ultimately how the infiltration was conducted. The startling details given by the soldiers shows how meticulously the attack was planned and how diligently it was executed so that there was no collateral damage on Indian side.
For the surgical strike, there were a total of 5 targets, of which three were in 15 Corps and two were in 16 Corps. Now I will tell you about the targets in 15 Corps. In 15 Corps target, in 19 Div, Baramulla, two targets were kept which were in Leepa Valley. In 28 Div, Kupwara, there was one target, which was in Neelum Valley. So there were 5 targets that were covered by surgical strike.
I was in the 28 Div Kupwara party, from where we had to operate in Neelum Valley. 19 Div Baramulla had to operate in Leepa Valley. In 19 Div Baramulla, Alpha and Bravo were operating and Charlie and Delta operated in 28 Div Kupwara.
About a kilometre from the target we were focusing on, was another enemy post… Pakistan’s post. It was a little bigger than a post. When we were doing its CTR (Close Target Recce) we realised that it may complicate our de-induction. So, it was imperative to neutralise it as well. It was decided at the last moment and I was part of the plan to neutralise it. We had the surveillance team with us and I was part of it. We knew we had to neutralise it or else we wouldn’t return safe.
We planned it in such a way that we didn’t inform the units around us. We wanted to maintain confidentiality or else we could face difficulties in the operation moving forward.
Firstly, we had to do the preliminary recce. So, the targets that we had…to reach those targets…almost 8 days ahead of it…the recce team that we have, we call it CTR (Close Target Recce) team. 4-5 of our Close Target Recce teams went for preliminary recce of our target.
Our Close Target Recce team left around 22nd (September) and returned to their location by 24th (September). They conducted surveillance and kept the target under observation. They saw the launchpad from where the militants cross and infiltrate into the valley. When they counted, there were 15-20 what they call ‘mujahideen’ and 5-7 regular soldiers.
When our team went there and came back with a confirmation on the target, we went into a secret room and in small groups, both area- and target-specific, we did our briefing and conducted our final planning.
The surveillance team had started surveying the area. We had already recced the area. But there is a recce format that we tally to see if there has been a change since the last recce.
For instance, after 3-4 days the surveillance team had reached the area and they had put it under continuous surveillance. They would update daily on the movement of sentries, or porters’ arrival, cutting of trees in forests…is there a change in timings… have they suspected the arrival of our team. So surveillance teams were on the job.
The surveillance team gave us accurate feed. They conducted CTR and told us approximate strength and what was happening around. So in case we need to make a change, the strike team can do so. After receiving the feed from the surveillance team… when they said everything was on track and as per plan…our assault team and support weapons group moved together. Behind them, we’d kept a reserve team. We did so in case we have a casualty, and there was a need to back up.
According to our CO’s direction, we started our induction. After that our commander on the ground, our team commander, told us about the plan ahead. We then inducted ourselves with the hepter (helicopter). We then took our car from our Div location bases … few civil cars and few army vehicles. All this induction was being done at night. We turned off the lights of all the vehicles, so no one notices any movement from afar. Our army vehicles were camouflaged and as for the civil vehicles, they wouldn’t know what they were for. So, our move was very concealed and the entire induction was carried out at night.
We conducted our infiltration in a scattered way. Some parties went in three days ahead, some two and a few left on the last day. Our surveillance and recce teams left three days ahead at night. Our support group and other parties left about two days ahead, our strike teams left a day before…approximately 24 hours ahead, they moved.
We moved at night, around 11:30pm on the 27th (September)… a few teams left at 11pm, a few at 11:15pm, a few 11:30pm …so in small groups, we sent our parties ahead. We were dropped by the cars almost half a kilometre before our LoC’s last post. Whichever team reached, we kept marching forward separately. So, the last post… the Indian post, near the LoC, we crossed it… after that the small groups we’d left in … from there around 4am… we crossed the last post, which was the Indian Army’s post.
We went to our higher headquarters with a helicopter; for our lower headquarters we used vehicles to reach the locations, and for our posts, it was mixed…in certain places, we used vehicles where we had to shift equipments. Places where soldiers had to move, according to different timings, we scattered them across different routes… some left on foot and some in vehicles.
In our own posts, we move at night. From 10pm at night until morning… we scattered our timings amongst the different teams… each team with two or three soldiers would move to their posts. Even there, we didn’t go together…we moved separately and reached our locations.
On 28th (September), around 10:30-11pm, we marched from our location. Around 4am, we reached the last LoC post and started marching forward. The surveillance team had left on 26th (September) and surveyed the area over two days. They were sending us active reports from time to time through anchor.