The army mobilised more than 350 troops, including elite para-commando teams, for possible engagement with the terrorists who ambushed Border Security Force (BSF) personnel outside Udhampur on Wednesday — the headquarters of the Northern Command and the nerve centre of the force’s counter-terrorism operations.
The orders for deploying special forces (SF) came after defence minister Manohar Parrikar spoke to army chief General Dalbir Singh. A senior officer involved with the planning of the operation told HT that helicopters were used for carrying out reconnaissance of the area. The commandos were to be inserted by army’s advanced light helicopters but bad weather scuttled the plan.
It is learnt two commando teams from 4 Para (SF) and 9 Para (SF) were assigned the task of neutralising the terrorists. Each team consisted of 50-60 commandos.
The commanding officer of 9 Para (SF) was onboard the Cheetah helicopter that carried out the first reconnaissance flight. After carrying out detailed aerial surveillance, commandos reached the area using military vehicles and walked the last leg on foot.
The army has seven SF battalions - 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 and 21 - and three airborne battalions -5, 6 and 7 Para. Three infantry companies of 250-plus soldiers were also deployed to support the operation and seal off neighbouring heights to prevent the terrorists from escaping, said another senior officer.
“The BSF had taken a hit. We were determined to leave nothing to chance. The army was prepared to handle the worst situation,” he said.
The terrorist who was holding five hostages could not keep his nerve on seeing fully-armed commandos close-in on him. This action involved only 10-15 para-commandos. The terrorist panicked, giving the hostages a chance to overpower him.
An army source said the BSF convoy may not have been the original target. “A convoy of Amarnath yatris had crossed the same spot a few minutes before the terrorists struck. They could have been targeting the pilgrims to disrupt the yatra,” he said.
This year, the annual Amarnath Yatra commenced on July 2 and will end on August 29.