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Martyred IAF commando likely to be awarded Ashok Chakra on R-Day

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(G.N.S) Dt. 25

New Delhi

IAF Garud commando Jyoti Prakash Nirala, who laid down his life while single-handedly shooting dead two to three terrorists during an encounter in Hajin area of Jammu and Kashmir last November, is all set to be posthumously awarded Ashoka Chakra, the country’s highest peacetime gallantry medal. For single-handedly eliminating the top leadership of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) in Hajin area of Jammu and Kashmir, Indian Air Force’s Garud Special Force operative Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala is likely to be posthumously awarded with the highest peacetime gallantry award, Ashok Chakra, on this Republic Day.

Nirala, who was martyred in the operation at Chandergeer on November 18 last year, where six terrorists were eliminated in joint operations by the Garud and the 13 Rashtriya Rifles, is likely to be the first airman to receive the award.

“Nirala is likely to be awarded the Ashok Chakra on this Republic Day. The gallantry awards for military personnel will be announced tomorrow by sources in Defence ministry,” said. Nirala, who hails from Bihar, has a wife and a four-year-old daughter. Altogether six terrorists, including the nephew of Lashkar-e-Toiba chief and mastermind of the 26/11 terror strikes Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, were killed in the fierce gun-battle.

An army jawan from the Garhwal regiment is also likely to be posthumously awarded the second highest gallantry award, Kirti Chakra, for operations in J&K in August last year.

The Chanderger operations, where Corporal Nirala was martyred, is considered to be one of the most successful operations done by the forces in 2017 as total of six militants were killed, including Owaid, who was the nephew of 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi .

The Republic Day gallantry awards list is yet to be officially announced but sources said Corporal Nirala (31), who hailed from Badladih village in Rohtas district of Bihar, is likely to become the first-ever IAF airman to get the highest medal for a ground combat operation. Flying officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon, a Gnat pilot, was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his gallantry during the 1971 war, while Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma was conferred the Ashoka Chakra for becoming the first Indian cosmonaut in 1984.

Nirala, who is survived by his widow Sushma, a minor daughter, ailing parents and three unmarried sisters, was part of the small Garud commando batch attached to the Army’s specialised counterinsurgency force, the Rashtriya Rifles, when he displayed the “pre-eminent act of valour” on November 18. The Rashtriya Rifles-Garud team, acting on an intelligence input, had surrounded a house at the Chandragarh village in Hajin area when they came under heavy fire from the terrorists holed up inside.

“Nirala, armed with a light machine gun, displayed conspicuous bravery in confronting the terrorists and killing two to three of them despite himself being hit by bullets. All six terrorists were killed,” said an official.Posted with 617 Flight of the Garud Specail Forces, Nirala’s act of valour proved to be fatal for the six terrorists who were hiding in a house in the Chanderger area.

As the forces were trying to hunt down LeT terrorists, a local police officer in Hajin area got a tip about the regular visit of one terrorist in the Chandergar area.

The officer with the help of the technical cell of the state police started tracking the militant.

A senior member of the Garud team also did recce of the locality. He was tracking the terrorist for almost a month.

As the team of 13 RR and Garuds cordoned the house with input about presence of two to three terrorists, the terrorists sitting inside panicked and tried to escape.

Trying to break the cordon, they started firing indiscriminately towards to break free from there. However, sitting with his Negev Light Machine Gun, Nirala retaliated with heavy fire and pinned down the terrorists. His initial burst killed two terrorists while injuring the others.

Nirala’s accurate fire on the terrorists helped the other members of the Garud team and 13 RR troops to easily eliminate the other terrorists.

While firing at the terrorists, Nirala exposed himself. During the firefight, a bullet hit him and proved to be fatal for him.

The operation was hailed as one of the biggest setbacks to the LeT as its entire leadership IN North Kashmir was wiped off by the forces in one go.

Since last year, small units of Garud commandos are undergoing “battle-inoculation” and “live situational training” with the Rashtriya Rifles for counter-terrorism operations, as part of the decision taken after the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase in January, 2016. Three Garud commandos have laid down their lives in the operations till now.

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