Editor: Read Chapter XXIII here.
The National Security Guards’s (NSG’s) 51 Special Action Group specialized in counter terrorist operations and sixty of the one hundred strong NSG continent deployed in Mumbai were in position for the ambush on that December morning. Three teams, each with twenty men and commanded by a captain, had been there since four a.m. Each team had four Hits, each Hit consisting of two pairs and a fifth man to provide technical support. The remaining forty men were kept hidden inside the Grand Hyatt Hotel’s compound as a reserve force, to be called out at a moment’s notice in case things did not work out for the ambush teams.
A team of five police officers led by Felix accompanied the NSG men. Felix and his men were observers rather than participants, since the NSG officers made it clear that they did not need any help from the police officers. At five past six, the first car, a beat-up Ford Figo came to a halt two hundred metres past the Grand Hyatt and it waited for the second car to arrive. As soon the second car, an old Maruti Esteem arrived, the first car moved off again, followed by the second. Both cars had their headlights on though it was no longer so dark.
The NSG men waited until the first car turned right in front of INGS Point and entered the CST Road. A hail of fire from sharpshooters positioned on top of nearby buildings and from the scrub in the rear blew out its tyres and forced the Ford Figo to careen wildly and come to a halt after some twenty metres. The Maruti Esteem took a few seconds to slow down and when it did, its tyres too were subjected to similar withering fire which crippled it. Two heavy-duty searchlights were turned on, their focus on the two cars.
Sanket opened the Ford Figo’s rear door and jumped out, only to be shot dead by at least five quick shots to his head and chest. The rest of the men stayed inside the cars. The drivers turned off the headlights, but it didn’t make a difference since the searchlights bathed the two cars in bright light.
‘Surrender! Hands Up! Come out slowly, hands in the air!’ a loud voice hailed them through a megaphone.
The men stayed inside the car, frozen in fear. From his position, Rajesh could see that the first car held four men and so did the second. ‘One man missing? There are only nine. We were told to expect ten, weren’t we?’ he asked Felix.
Felix’s muttered response was unclear, but Rajesh suspected that it was a concise description of the terrorists’ pedigree and he didn’t repeat his question.
‘Fire!’ The hooded captain lying next to Rajesh on top of JP Morgan’s corporate headquarters ordered once again and another round of bullets riddled both cars. Then suddenly, without any warning, the Ford Figo blew up, the huge explosion throwing the car high into the air in a big ball of fire, killing all the men inside it instantly, burning them to a cinder.
Oh Shit! It was meant to be a car bomb, Rajesh realized as he watched the flames consume Sanket’s dead body.
Within a few seconds after the explosion, the driver’s door and both rear doors of the second car opened and three men came out. They could all see that one of the men was an unarmed old man, and he was so disoriented that he was incapable of any coherent movement. After a couple of seconds, Avinash clutched his chest, walked a couple of steps backwards, slumped down and rested his back against the Maruti Esteem’s rear wheel. Dinesh and the driver crouched near the respective doors they had exited from, pistols in their hands.
‘Surrender! Hands Up!’ the loud speaker once again ordered.
‘There’s someone still inside the car,’ Rajesh shouted. ‘We should try and take them alive, if possible,’ he told the captain who did not even bother to respond. He wished that the importance of capturing at least some of the attackers alive had been emphasized to the NSG before the ambush started, but at that time they were still wondering if the tip off was genuine.
‘Yes, I can see him. No hurry. Let him stay there,’ the NSG Captain replied with a chuckle. The man who had been driving the Esteem started to walk away from the car with purpose, his hands held high.
‘Don’t surrender, you fool!’ Niranjan ordered from inside the car. Niranjan’s command did not have the intended response as the driver continued to walk forward. Without any hesitation, Niranjan shot the driver in the head from behind and he fell down.
The response from the NSG was immediate. A torrent of bullets were pumped into the car from all sides and Niranjan was hit in his left shoulder. Dinesh too was hit in his thigh and stomach and then suddenly the firing stopped.
As the overpowering silence crept up over them, ‘What shall we do Comrade Avinash?’ Niranjan shouted, pressing his face close to the shattered window glass, though it was unlikely that the dazed Platoon Leader sitting on the ground, leaning back against the car’s wheel, heard him.
When Niranjan realised that neither instructions nor advice would be forthcoming from Avinash, he shouted, ‘let’s keep fighting!’ and set an example himself by firing a couple of bullets through the car’s window. Dinesh followed suit and fired a few times and then his magazine was empty. He did not have the strength to reload, though he did have two more magazines in his backpack. The NSG men did not bother to return fire, since it was obvious that there was no escape.
Dinesh used up his last ounce of strength, got back into the rear of the car, shut the door and sat on the floor, by Niranjan’s feet.
‘Surrender! Hands Up! Come out of the car!’
‘I won’t surrender and neither should you,’ Niranjan told Dinesh as he slowly bled to death. ‘We should not let them capture Comrade Avinash either.’
‘There’s only one way to do that Comrade,’ Dinesh said and slouched forward. Niranjan knew what the answer was. He saw that Dinesh had stopped moving. He himself was in severe pain from the bullet which had shattered his left shoulder. Any moment now, they would be captured.
In front of him, he could see and smell the charred remains of the men who had burnt to death inside the Ford Figo. Sanket’s charred body and that of the driver he had just shot lay on the road. It was up to him Unit Leader Niranjan to live up to the ideals inculcated in them by Comrade Tarun. He had to ensure that no one was taken alive. With a great deal of difficulty and pain, he shrugged the backpack off his back and took out the remote control inside. The red button on top beckoned him, offering release from all his pain and suffering, promising honour after his death. Despite his atheist beliefs, Niranjan muttered a prayer he had been taught by his parents when very young and pressed the red button causing the potent mix packed inside the boot of the Maruti Esteem to explode.
The second explosion was even bigger than the first and it caused the entire car to be thrown into the air with Niranjan and Dinesh inside. Avinash, who was leaning against a rear wheel, was thrown sideways and his body landed many metres away.
‘All of the attackers are dead!’ Avinash’s, Niranjan’s, Dinesh’s and the driver’s bodies burned with a vengeance.
The five police officers and the NSG men slowly emerged from their various nests to inspect their handiwork. ‘We could not even capture a single one alive,’ Felix lamented.
‘I don’t think we were meant to,’ Rajesh said.
‘The bastards who tipped us off could have told us that both cars were primed to act as car bombs, couldn’t they?’ Felix demanded.
‘Whoever tipped us off, didn’t want us to find out too much about these men, I guess,’ Rajesh responded thoughtfully.
Featured Image (Cover): Nisha Joseph
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