I was half dozing when I realised that the noise due to rain and had stopped. I woke up with a start and checked my watch. We had stopped for only 20 minutes . Most members of my squad were already up checking and strapping up their gear. Within a few minutes we were all ready to move. Major got us all in a huddle and said, “Our UAV had to go back to the base due to bad weather. Now we’ll be able to get it back on station only after 100-110 minutes. But there is nothing to worry. We are very near our destination. As we had expected, Pakis have withdrawn most of their patrols to their forward posts in order to help with their covering fire. They’ll remain pinned there by our own fire when we give the word.” He grinned, “This is going to be one long crazy night for those basturds. Now lets move. ”
Walking on mountain was even more difficult due to snow banks, mud and wet slippery rocks. It slowed down our progress a little but we were on our checkpoint soon enough. Our first way point was a small Paki army post adjacent to a small goat trail which split in to two going towards their larger camp. According to intelligence, it was lightly guarded and used only by mules and porters as a temporary shelter on their way to LoC. From aerial photographs, it was just 2 tin sheds on a comparatively flat area on a ridge. The camp ground itself was a flat roughly circular area no more than 30 meters in diameter A diversion from the trail divided it in to two parts. One had a small hut made of wood, stone and tin sheets and the other side only had a small tent. That night the camp ground was occupied by Hussain and his bunch of trainee terrorists.
Our UAV had caught the group walking on the trail leading to this camp and they were sure to come this way unless they took to climbing full height of mountains in darkness. Through better part of it’s length it was barely wide enough for a single person to place a single foot. Only the ocassional Paki army patrols and their beloved wild goats ever put their feet on it as the terrain area wasn’t conductive for human habitation. There were dozens of boulders all over the mountains and often it just took a single push to roll them down the steep slope. There was sparse vegetation in form of various small bushes and grasses. Little else grows on such mountains at such altitudes and trees are few and far in between. There were big patches lacking any sort of vegetation mostly due to big bare rocks. Other times it was due to snow and landslides. Parts of the ground were still covered by big and small snow deposits which had not melted by then. This made detailed planning of routes and waypoints very difficult. It’s not always possible to plan a mission like this just by the maps and a lot of work and improvisation is needed for any chance of success.
After one more hour of walking, we checked our bearings on GPS a little more closely. According to maps, we were very near the camp but we had not spotted it yet. No trace of fire or light either. Our sniper team broke away to scout for the camp. Rest of us found a spot to huddle up under cover. I had butterflies in our stomach now that that we were so close. If any one else was feeling the same, he didn’t show it. After a few minutes, which seemed like hours to me, the scouting team came back. They had spotted the camp on a small bump of a hill less than 100 m from our location. It was on an elevated clearing at some height from the trail and thus not visible for most part from the path we took.
Two of our guys slowly crawled forward to take a look inside the hut. There was a small glass window on the side opposite to door on each. Ordinarily it was impossible to see inside a dark room from outside by naked eye, but there are ways. One guy switched on his infra-red light and pointed it through the glass. Figures of 10 men sleeping in 2 rows on the floor were clearly visible in night vision goggles. One wall of the hut was lined with Klashnikov rifles, some heavy looking bags and rucksacks, Presumably the weapons and supplies carried by the group.
There was only one pair of boots outside the only tent in the ground. Our best guess was that it was occupied by our most wanted man Zahid. He was a short, squat man, with a long scar running down his left cheek which parted his long bushy beard. We had seen his ugly mugshot on our units board a hundred times and knew it well. So there was almost nil chance of any mistaken identity.
Our squad divided in two. 2 men took positions on each one of the exits of the camp. 2 men were assigned to cover the tent while rest were assigned to clear the hut. In order to maintain stealth, we had to do everything with as little noise as possible. Contrary to what’s shown in movies, firearms with silencers are not silent. Even the best military grade silencers can’t lower the noise to anything less than 120 decibels. A sound like this in uninhabited mountains echoes and travels a long distance. Our whole plan hinged to being quiet and stealthy. So use of a firearm was a matter of last resort. That left us with knives; silent, efficient and brutal.
But there was one small problem of storming the hut without waking up everyone. Any noise could’ve woken up the terrorists inside and made our job a lot more difficult and probably endanger the mission and our lives. After a few minutes of brainstorming, we eventually agreed on opening the door as quietly as possible and pounce on sleeping terrorists before they knew what hit them.
But we had a stroke of luck when one of the terrorists woke up to take a leak and opened the door for us. He was quickly grabbed, debriefed and dispatched. Inspite of his love for hoors in jannat he blabbered on and begged for mercy before he was silenced. That left 9 sleeping targets for 7 of us. We assigned ourselves our targets and checked our weapons one last time
My team lined up besides the door with knives in hand and pistols within quick reach before entering the hut.
I was second in line to enter the hut and was moving towards my assigned target on the extreme end of hut when he turned and opened his eyes. He probably registered imminent threat to his life quite soon and sat up bolt upright and shouted as I lunged towards him. He jumped up and moved towards where their luggage was instead of the guns which I had expected making me miss him by just centimeters. His shout was enough to awaken some of the sleeping terrorists inside the hut, but not enough to help them survive the murderous assault by my team. All of them were in process of being killed by a broken neck or severed arteries while he was trying to find something in a bunch of heavy looking rucksacks. A lot of us were chosen due to our proficiency for unarmed combat and it paid off. Apart from some muffled thuds and screams, no one outside the huts heard anything.
His decision of not going for guns proved fatal to him and he was killed just a few moments later.
Major had chosen himself and 1 other soldier as the team storming the tent and they went to work at the same time as my team. When we came outside , our hands and uniforms covered with the blood of Paki terrorists, we found Zahid with sitting on his knees in the mud with his hands tied and mouth gagged, staring in absolute disbelief at the Major. There was a hint of recognition in his eyes, or so I thought.
He was kept at gunpoint while we searched the site. We had no real need of carrying any of the terrorists’ weapons back with us. So we just made them unusable by breaking them as quietly as possible. We’d have rolled rest of the supplies down the slope from where most of them would end up in the stream but actions of that terrorist made us search each individual bag. more carefully. There were 2 satellite and 4 mobile phones which sometime prove to be a great source of intelligence and leads. This was entirely what we expected but the thing which captured our interest was a big plastic box inside one of the rucksacks where the last terrorist died.
My best guess was that it was a bomb which he was trying to explode in order to take us all down with him. It was the size of a thick carry on suitcase but heavy. It must have weighed atleast 25- 30 kgs. It had a simple latch system for locking it close.
At that time, we had no way of knowing if it was a bomb or we could safely open it. But last actions of that terrorist made it a very mysterious and potentially vital object which we could not leave without investigating. Carrying the whole thing back with us with all our gear was out of question without making sure and neither one of us felt comfortable enough to try opening the box without any required equipment.