Three years ago on this day, the Indian Army carried out surgical strikes against terror launchpads on and along the Line of Control (LoC). The surgical strikes were carried out nearly 10 days after the Uri terror attack where 18 soldiers were killed when four terrorists launched a barrage of grenades at the Army's 12 Brigade headquarters in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir.
Recalling the night of October 28-29 when Special Forces of the Indian Army carried out the surgical strikes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said three years ago on this day he did not sleep all night and was waiting for his phone to ring.
Addressing BJP workers moments after returning from his trip to the US on Saturday night, PM Narendra Modi said, "That day marked the victory of India's brave soldiers who did surgical strike and made the country proud.
SURGICAL STRIKE: WHAT HAPPENED ON OCT 28-29, 2016
On September 28, 2016, the Indian Army mobilised nearly 100 of its specially trained operators to carry out attacks at terror launchpads. The exact ground planning for the operation was carried out by the Army's Northern Command in Udhampur after a decision to carry out the strikes was taken by India's top military brass in New Delhi in close coordination with the country's political leadership.
Prior to the D-day, the Special Forces had identified their targets--launchpads used for terrorist infiltration - and surveilled them for days.
On the night of October 28-29, at H-hour, a coded signal went out to the teams. "The operators opened up with the portable artillery they had backpacked across the LoC-Carl Gustaf rocket launchers, thermobaric rockets, under-barrel grenade launchers clipped on rifles and 'Milkor' multiple grenade launchers that spat out six 40 mm grenades in one pull of the trigger," the India Today magazine had said in its cover story on the surgical strike in 2016.
It added: "Six launchpads at Kel, Lipa, Athmuqam, Tattapani and Bhimber, located within five kilometres of the LoC, were hit near-simultaneously. The explosions were captured on hand-held cameras and by Indian Army drones floating above, relaying the images back to base. At each location, the operation was terminated in minutes."
Speaking about the operation, a senior official privy to the details had said the mission was to destroy the launchpads. "They (Special Forces) did not engage their targets with small arms fire nor wait to count casualties," he said.
Besides this, the weapons that were used for the operation were chosen in a manner so as to inflict the "maximum structural damage".
HOW SPECIAL FORCES PREPARED THEMSELVES
To conceal their identity and avoid being tracked by the terrorists, the Special Forces devised unique combat strategies. The 100 specially trained soldiers blended themselves into the rugged topography.
"Their combat fatigues blended into the forest, their faces were streaked with camouflage paint. Their skin was covered in a thin film of mud to suppress body odour. Their weapons had been blackened. They had lain in ambush for over 48 hours," said the cover story as it detailed what all went into carrying out the surgical strikes.
In 2018, a senior Army officer also confirmed in public that the Army also used leopard urine to suppress human body odour during the operation.
The exact number of terrorists killed in the surgical strikes remains unknown but the government and the Army said severe damage was inflicted. Speaking to India Today magazine after the strike, Army officials privy to the operation had said the number of casualties on the terrorist side is "only guesstimates" based on how many terrorists and their supporters are within each camp.
However, the Indian side did not suffer any casualty. One soldier did suffer injuries on his foot. This happened when he walked across a mine on the way back.
The Army reportedly also ensured that evidence of the surgical strike was also recorded using hand-held cameras and drones. The soldiers took visual evidence of the strike.
One team waited until daybreak, past 6 am, to capture a camp being blown up on video.
These videos were sent to the military's top brass. The infrared bloom in one of the launchpads led the top brass to wonder whether the operators had hit a weapons dump. The footage was carefully analysed by Army and intelligence sources and shown to the leadership before India went public with the strike.
On the afternoon of September 29, 2016, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Ranbir Singh addressed a press conference in New Delhi. In it, he announced that India had carried out 'surgical strikes' 'along' the border after receiving specific and credible input on terrorists planning to infiltrate India to carry out attacks.