Thirty minutes, from ‘insertion’ to ‘kill’ to ‘out’. Forty of India’s toughest fighting men, commandos from the elite 21 Para (Special Force) Regiment, in two teams. Russian-made Mi-35 attack helicopters of the Indian Air Force. Two rebel camps, four km deep in Myanmar, and more than 20 militants. All destroyed with surgical precision and extreme prejudice.
Indian paratroopers conducted cross-border strikes on two insurgent camps in Myanmar early on Tuesday, inflicting "significant casualties" five days after 18 soldiers were killed in Manipur in the worst attack on security forces in 30 years.
Tuesday’s operation wasn’t just about revenge or hot pursuit; the strikes were pre-emptive. "In the course of the last few days, credible and specific intelligence was received about further attacks that were being planned within our territory," a statement released by the army said.
Releasing details of the operation, the army said it had inflicted "significant casualties" but didn’t give a precise number. Sources said at 22 militants were killed in the twin strikes on camps located well within Myanmar territory.A similar number were said to be injured, and the others were scattered by the ferocity of the attack that involved use of the machine guns mounted on the Mi-35s. These guns fire the heavy and incredibly powerful 12.7 mm round at the mind-boggling rate of about 4,000 rounds a minute, what is referred to as ‘hosepipe’ in army slang. Little survives such firepower, and in Myanmar early on Tuesday, little did.
The rare cross-border strike was supervised at the highest levels, HT has learnt. National security adviser AK Doval and defence minister Manohar Parrikar monitored the operation that began at 3 am Tuesday. “Myanmar was informed about the plans but the strikes at two locations were conducted by our army,’’ an official said.
Doval, who dropped out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s weekend tour of Bangladesh at the last minute, Parrikar and army chief Gen Dalbir Singh, who put off a visit of the UK following the Manipur ambush, coordinated the operation.
Intelligence reports and satellite images of insurgent camps were shared with Myanmar. “One attack took place opposite Chassad in Manipur’s Ukhrul district, the other, opposite to Noklak in Nagaland’s Tuensang district,” home ministry sources said on condition of anonymity.
An "immediate response was necessary" to counter the assault being planned by "groups involved in earlier attacks on our security personnel", the army said. The statement, however, didn’t say if the "significant casualties" included those responsible for the June 4 Manipur attack.
The camp close to Manipur was known to be a Peoples Liberation Army, a Meitei outfit, base, sources said. Members of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) and other Meitei insurgent groups also camped there. Meitei are the majority ethnic group in Manipur, where several insurgent outfits continue to oppose the state’s union with India.
The camp close to Noklak was a Khaplang base, sources said. “It is suspected that top leaders of the Khaplang faction including Starson Lamkang (the self-styled finance minister, or ‘kilonser’) may have been at the camp,” sources said. Lamkang is believed to be involved in the June 4 ambush that was claimed by the NSCN (K). The outfit had in March ended the ceasefire with the Indian government.
Indicating that more strikes could be coming, the army’s statement said they were in touch with the authorities in the neighbouring country.