Samba attack: Armoured unit used 5 tanks, CO tried to run over terrorist

Samba attackFour soldiers were killed in the attack. Express file

New details emerging from last month's attack on the Samba-based 16 Cavalry by three terrorists indicate that not only was the unit poorly guarded, but it was also unprepared to counter the assault.

The attackers had held the unit hostage for several hours, killing four soldiers, including its second-in-command.

While a major tragedy was averted as the terrorists, who had sneaked in from across the international border, did not stumble across families of officers trapped in the officers' mess that was attacked, the armoured unit — raised for a different kind of war — was neither trained nor equipped to handle the terror attack.

In the melee that ensued, the battalion responded in a manner that many in the military are now questioning: five tanks deployed, high explosive rounds fired into the building, the second-in-command shot while trying to fetch weapons, and even an attempt to run over a fleeing terrorist with a 40-tonne main battle tank.

The unit, the first one located on the road that connects Kathua to Samba, had only one sentry on duty at the officers' mess entrance gate instead of the standard two-man team.

The main entrance gate to the battalion area was better guarded but its most vulnerable point — the mess where officers gather for meals, unarmed — was not tough for the attackers to access.

Arriving at the unit at around 7.30 am, when troops were engaged in the "gun cleaning" drill of the tanks, the three militants shot the single sentry and entered the mess area, killing the orderly on duty. They meticulously went through each room of the mess, using grenades, but could not find the officers as they were in the field.

The next casualty was Lt Col Bikramjit Singh, the second-in-command, who rushed out from his accommodation adjacent to the mess and was racing towards a guard room along with a soldier when the militants spotted them and opened fire.

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