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How it happened: Para commando teams spent 4 hours across the LoC, hitting 8 terror targets

In one of the most daring raids ever, the Indian army announced that it had carried out strikes on eight terror launch pads, in a night long operation across the Line of Control in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, which officials claim exacted casualties in the “double digits”. According to sources, the operation to hit terrorist bases in a “pre-emptive counterstrike” were given the go-ahead a week ago, days after the Uri army base attack in which 18 Indian soldiers were killed. The army had warned last week that the reply would be given “at the time and place” of its choosing.

On Wednesday, Defence Minister Parrikar inaugurated the Coastguards Commanders conference in Delhi in the morning, and he, Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag and NSA Ajit Doval were expected to attend a dinner at the event later in the day.

They never attended the dinner. Through the day instead, they had all gathered in the military war room along with DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, as the operations began in two different parts, after the Prime Minister gave a formal go ahead to the secret operation. The operations were in locations spread over 200 kilometres, and was carried out by Para Special Forces and 'Ghatak' platoons of the local units.

Local commanders were given a freehand to select the targets, terrorist launching pads that had been mapped in advance, say officials. The teams had already been moved to forward positions by helicopters, but no Indian army chopper crossed the LOC, sources said. The helicopters remained on standby throughout the operations. The troops carried Carl Gustav rifles, grenades, shoulder fired weapons and flame throwers, among other equipment.

Just past midnight on Wednesday, the Indian Army rolled out its operation. It started with artillery fire being opened up at a few locations including along LOC in Uri. As the Pakistani troops focussed themselves on retaliating to the firing, Indian commandos crawled across the LOC to the predetermined spots across the LOC. The targets were terrorist launching pads in Hot Springs, Kel and Lipa that came under 15 Corps, while Bhimber Gali came under the Army’s 16th corps.

"They went in with the order to shoot to kill, and not to leave behind any injured soldiers," a senior Army officer said.

Guides and handlers who knew the locations of the camps that were on target were involved as support, say military sources, while soldiers of the Dogra and Bihar regiments were involved as support for the operation. Of the 8 targets identified, say the sources, six were active terror camps, while two didn’t show much activity.

While most of the operations were conducted within about two kilometre of the Line of Control, one team of commandos had to walk about 3 kilometre across the Hotwater springs area. At each location, the teams went in quickly, planted explosives, detonated them and moved out.

Army sources said three of the targets have been destroyed fully. According to initial assessment of UAV footages, Army estimates at least 40 deaths.

At certain locations, where the soldiers faced fire, the teams fired back, but received no injuries, according to officials. Eventually, sources describing the operation said the casualties on the Pakistani side were “heavy”, and in the “double digits”. They also claimed that photographs and videos of the operation will be released soon.

The entire operation was being covered by UAVs that provided live footage to the Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur, as well as the army divisions in Baramullah, Kupwara and Uri, images that were beamed back to an extremely relieved leadership back in Delhi.

(with inputs from Dinakar Peri)

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