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'Unnikrishnan took big risk, saved colleague, went to fight alone'

'Unnikrishnan took big risk, saved colleague, went to fight alone'

Author: Express news service
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: April 5, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/unnikrishnan-took-big-risk-saved-colleague/443262/

Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the NSG commando killed at Taj Hotel during the 26/11 terror attacks, "took a very big risk" as he fell to a terrorist's bullet after he rescued an injured commando and then rushed up the stairs deciding to take on the terrorists alone.

These are among exclusive details of the 60-hour operation revealed by former Director General of NSG J K Dutt to The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV's Walk the Talk broadcast today-the second part will be broadcast next week.

Dutt said that by the time the Maharashtra government formally asked for help, the commandos were already on their way to Delhi airport, anticipating such a call.

Dutt said he had asked his commandos to get ready as soon as he saw the first footage of the attack on television.

"From the way shooting was taking place and from some of the shots that they showed, I could make out that this was more of a terrorist attack which was taking place. So I immediately asked my commandos to get ready. In fact, soon after that I got a call from the Cabinet Secretary saying that the NSG may be required, so the team should be ready. As soon as that happened, I felt that we should move our men to the airport," said Dutt who retired from service at the end of February.

Dutt said the commandos had taken no more than 30 minutes to get ready and had left for the Delhi airport, which is about an hour's drive from NSG's base in Manesar.

Question marks had been raised over the response time of NSG, which began operations in Mumbai at 9 am on November 27, 2008, almost 12 hours after the terrorists first struck.

Dutt said the plane which carried the NSG commandos to Mumbai did not have to be summoned from Chandigarh but was very much stationed at Delhi airport.

"An IL-76, which can carry almost 200 persons - it's a huge aircraft - that was available at Delhi. The only thing is that such huge planes cannot be fuelled and kept at the apron, because then they are almost like a bomb. As soon as they are required for an operation or exercise, they are fuelled, the crew comes in and once they are over there, then the loading starts. That's exactly what happened that night as well," he said.

"We were ready by 2.10 am and we were told that we would take off by 2.20," he said. Dutt said the plane, however, could take off only at 3 am because of the checks that needed to be carried out. "The revving up of the engines and the like takes about 25-30 minutes," he said.

Explaining the circumstances around Unnikrishnan's death, Dutt said: "(The terrorists) were positioned on the landing on the first floor (where) they engaged the NSG team..and when they advanced, one of the commandos was injured and he fell on the staircase. Unnkrishnan along with his team immediately rushed to rescue him. Unnikrishnan was right in front. He was able to rescue the man and hand him over to his team-mates and when the fire was coming from the landing on top, he decided to go after the terrorists (alone)...His buddy was taking care of the injured person who had been handed over to him."

When told that as per training, the buddy pair shouldn't have been broken, Dutt said: "Yes, but a situation like this demands...and a window of opportunity which can be exploited I think that's what Unnikrishnan did."

"He went up to the first floor...from there he was able to engage the terrorists. The only thing was that at that time the number of terrorists up there was not known - we knew that there were two. There was, in fact, a third one inside a room taking shelter (behind) a lot of cushions and when Unnikrishnan was chasing one of the terrorists, he came in front of the room where the third terrorist was...that unfortunately got him."


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