When my mobile alarm went off (with a lowered volume), according to the plan, I got ready to fire. But the deafening sounds of rockets exploding on impact reverberated throughout the valley. I found it difficult to keep my hands steady to shoot and bided my time. And when I finally did fire, mine was one of the last rockets to take off. It did find its target though and added to the stupendous scale of devastation that had happened in just over a minute or so. More than twenty rockets had been fired in all, although there had also been a couple of misfires and at least one of them had gone totally wide off the mark.
Plumes of smoke, huge fires and scattered debris could be clearly seen from our strategic positions despite the presence of dust clouds all around. Panicky men were shouting, screaming, weeping and running. They looked all over but could not spot us. We had already hit them hard.
Two more waves of rocket attacks increased the devastation as well as the chaos. Artillery shells from the first tank seemed to strike the main installations and structures in the middle to devastating effect. Meanwhile, we received news that the second tank had been successfully destroyed. The victorious group would be joining the rest of the unit in the next stage of the battle.
The next stage was the close combat stage where the rest of the unit excluding us would enter the campgrounds and cause mayhem. The relentless sound of AK47s firing, rocket attacks and hand grenade explosions rent the air. From our elevated position on the hills, we aimed at the centre of the camp with our RPG launchers and AK47s. We aimed at the middle of the ground so as to avoid killing our own men who were infiltrating the camp from all sides.
Those who endeavoured to flee the camp from the main entrance were ambushed in a brutal assault by both the groups stationed in the area. In fact, the group that had destroyed the second tank provided valuable support to these groups. The rockets, grenades and bullets must have killed scores of men.
Most of the main targets had been destroyed by now. Both the helicopters had been blown up with rockets. One of them had managed to take off and was just a few metres high when it had been attacked. The solitary tank on the grounds was permanently damaged by an explosion. The guard towers and ammunition depot had been obliterated too. Moreover, all the buildings had been reduced to rubble.
But there were casualties on our side as well. A few had died accidentally because of unfortunate instances of friendly firing. Someone had stepped on a mine in the distance and had most probably been killed.
My night vision scope had caught all the action wonderfully. But the battle was still far from won. The enemy was fighting fiercely now as most of the survivors had woken up fully from their slumber. Some of them launched a counterattack against us. They must have even called for some aerial support by now. I wished we could leave immediately but Younus did not give any orders for a retreat as yet.
And then things began to go wrong. Someone managed to scale the hillock and kill Abdullah. Mohsin fired at the enemy. But he was critically wounded before he had incapacitated his opponent. The brave lad lay on the ground, breathing heavily. Najma, Afzal and I went up to him...