Jul 2, 2008

Lessons from the Chitrakonda ambush

K. Srinivas Reddy
Police veering round to the view that Maoists lured Greyhounds by providing false leads
Ambush similar to the one in Gunukurayi area last month
Rebels had superior weapons in their possession
HYDERABAD: The military precision with which Maoist rebels executed the Chitrakonda ambush in Orissa against Greyhounds, undoubtedly the best commando force in the country, teaches some valuable lessons to counter-revolutionary strategists. Thirty-five Greyhounds commandos are feared killed in the trap.
While the military aspect of the deadliest ambush is being analysed by security forces, the Andhra Pradesh police is gradually veering round to the view that the Maoists had lured two units of Greyhounds by providing false leads about a meeting being held on the Orissa border.
Following the “lead,” Orissa is believed to have asked for assistance in smoking out the ultras and Greyhounds units were despatched from Sileru point in Andhra Pradesh on June 24.
That the Greyhounds is on the cross hairs of Maoist rebels, especially those operating on the borders of Chhattisgarh and Orissa, is no secret at all.
On May 28, Maoists laid a trap for the Greyhounds teams in Gunukurayi area of Visakhapatnam agency and ambushed them.
But, the Greyhounds fought back and shot dead four Maoists, while losing one senior commando. Interestingly, in this ambush also, 20 Greyhounds personnel were sent to the agency area following a ‘lead’ that the rebels were holding a meeting.
The Chitrakonda ambush too went on similar lines. Two Greyhounds units (each unit consists of 35 commandos) were sent to Orissa, purportedly on a joint operation with the Orissa police on June 24. They took the same route by a boat and throwing basic norms to winds chose to return in the same direction using the same transport.
“It was a predictable movement, which should have been avoided,” a senior police officer said. As the boat crossed a point, it came under heavy bursts of fire from Light Machine Guns from three directions. “It was not random fire, but a very controlled one. If firing ceased from one direction, it began from another point. Those sitting on the upper deck had no protection. When they rushed to the other side, the boat capsized and the heavy firing must have killed many of the commandos.”Retaliation
Police officers taking stock maintain that there was some return fire, but it was ineffective. The commandos carrying mortars and Under Barrel Grenade Launchers could not use them. Neither did the automatic weapons help as everyone ran helter skelter. There were reports of rebels using a boat to fire commandos drowning or trying to swim away. Only those who swam in the reverse direction managed to survive.
It was not as if top echelons of the Andhra Pradesh police had not anticipated the attack. After Gunukurayi, police found some documents in kit bags, which spoke of the extensive planning by the rebels. They lay in wait from May 20 and were prepared to wait till June 3, but the Greyhounds walked into the trap on May 28.
The rebels had mined a stretch in the forest and lay in wait for nine days. But the 20-member commando team split into three teams and took three different routes to reach a point ahead of the ambush site. While two teams took a semi-circular route, the third one took the straight way and stepped into the ambush site.
Here too, LMGs were used in addition to at least six landmine explosions.
If Greyhounds could withstand such a meticulously planned ambush, what went wrong in Chitrakonda?
The single reason being cited is violation of the cardinal principle of survival – avoiding predictability in movement. And of course, the minimum precautions to be taken while crossing water bodies. Unfamiliar terrain
In addition, the Greyhounds were not well-versed with the terrain.
The other aspect that seemed to have not been factored in was the superior weapons the rebels have in their possession after the Nayagarh raid in Orissa.

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