(Continued from Part-I)
Negotiation and battle for survival begin Negotiation started with the RUF rebels. Liberia, Nigeria and various other countries under UN took part in the negotiation. At the same time, the two besieged companies of 5/8 Gurkha Rifles started the grim battle for survival. The gallant Gurkhas were simultaneously fighting against the rebels who were numerically superior, scarcity of food and water and little-known topography of the land.
Ultimately the long and complex negotiation remained inconclusive. The political and military leadership decided to use force to take out the besieged Gurkhas.
Plan of attack The plan of attack was to be carried out in five phases:-
Action started on 15th July, 2000 Throughout negotiation, radio contact was maintained with the besieged Companies at Kailahun. Fortunately, the communication between Daru and Kailahun was in Malayalam so that the RUF could not monitor the conversation. At the same time, 2 Para(SF) started infiltrating behind enemy lines to bring back valuable information about enemy strength, troop positioning, roadblocks and most importantly, about the topography of the region with dense forest. On the D-Day (15th July, 2000) amidst heavy rain, three Indian Mi-8 attack helicopters started the action. The support helicopters of the British force could not take off.
Beginning the assault, Indian Parracommandos detonated explosives and breached the wall to enter Kailahun camp. One team proceeded to rescue the besieged soldiers and UN civilians and another team used armoured vehicles to engage and neutralize enemy check posts. The besieged Gurkhas used jeeps and trucks to fight their way out breaking siege. But the progress was slow due to incessant rain and muddy land. The enemy resorted to sniping and rocket fire. To protect those Gurkha soldiers and to aid their movement, Paras took up posts at all vulnerable positions and responded to the enemy action by heavy fire.
Ultimately Indian soldiers reached Geihun and were linked up with 18 Grenediers, who reached there from Daru to support them. The Paras also reached Geihun covering the rear position of the troops. In one hour, all Indian soldiers were airlifted to Daru to join Indian contingent.
Casualties on both sides During the entire operation, only one Indian soldier, Havildar Krishan Kumar died. There were some shrapnel injuries during the return of Indian soldiers from Kailahun to Daru via Geihun. Thirty-three men suffered from illness during the siege. One vehicle was destroyed by the enemies. On the RUF side, several hundred soldiers were killed and injured.
Concluding comments: Why Operation Khukri is importantThis operation is not well-known because it took place within one year of Kargil episode. But Operation Khukri occupies an important position in the annals of UN Peacekeeping Forces. This operation is an example of the efficiency of Peacekeeping forces especially for the skeptics who doubt the utility of Peacekeeping forces. Moreover, this successful operation broke the backbone of RUF rebels and gradually the insurgency and internal strife at Sierra Leone ebbed. From the Indian point of view, this operation was extremely successful and all the units involved in the operation showed their true mettle in an unknown terrain and during inclement weather. The two Companies of Gurkhas were besieged by the numerically superior RUF rebels within days of their camping at Kailahun, but they successfully kept the rebels at bay for two months, when the Kenyan forces were overrun within hours and no other Peacekeeping force (of other countries) directly engaged with the rebels. Finally, the operation also proved what the Indian soldiers can do when they are backed by decisive political leadership.
(Continued from Part-I)
Hat's off to the gallant Indian soldiers in Operation Khukri.
If the soldiers around the world who join the UN peacekeeping force (UNPKF), have restrictions to use their weapons at times of armed strike against them, why do we still participate? aren't their exceptions to this rule? Two months besieged by rebels could have had more loss of life.
UNPKF has been in vogue since 1948, Maybe it's time to change the rules because the UNPKF is fighting rebels and militia that have a superior firepower and access to good armaments needed for surface or surface to air battles,
Thanks to Mr. Natarajan for reading this two-part article on the gallantry of Indian soldiers at Sierra Leone. In this connection, I would like to state that the contribution of Indian troops in the UN Peace-keeping forces is awesome. Every UNPKF contingent always desires to have Indian companies and battalions.
It is also relevant to remember the gallantry of Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria, 3/1 Gurkha Rifles, who covered himself and Indian Army with glory during peace-keeping operation at Congo in 1961. He is the only Indian Officer who received Param Vir Chakra (posthumously) in a peace-keeping operation.
It is really unfortunate that we, Indians, don't know much about our real heroes who work silently and bring glory to Mother India.