One bloody day in Congo
Editor’s Note: In September 2011, the double murder of gangsters Raju Pargai and Amit Arya rocked Uttarakhand. Pargai was a national security threat smuggling weapons into India. Indian intelligence agencies ordered the covert assassin named 'Agent Lima' to put him down. But the day after the murders, Laxman 'Lucky' Bisht—an NSG commando—was arrested from his home in Haldwani, accused of the double murder. Veteran crime journalist and author S Hussain Zaidi’s book offers a fascinating look at the life of a real-life undercover agent—and some of the most interesting bits aren’t even about the main Pargai plotline. The excerpt below describes his stint as a commando for UN forces in the Congo. This following excerpt is from ‘R.A.W. Hitman: The Real Story of Agent Lima’ by S Hussain Zaidi. It has been republished with permission from Simon & Schuster.
In the jungles of Congo, in Central Africa, Lucky was standing with his right foot planted firmly on the rebel’s right hand as he lay sprawled on the open field. The year was 2007 and Lucky was into the early stages of his career as a professional commando. This mission was part of the operations conducted by the United Nations aimed at putting an end to the growing dominance of the rebel outfits in Congo. Lucky was among the few chosen commandos that constituted the fighter team in the troop. He carried a special forces cover ID.
Scorching rays of the sun fell on the rebel’s face. The wincing outlaw tried to yank his bullet ridden hand out from underneath Lucky’s foot. Lucky and his team of 45 men from various nationalities, clad in battle gear, had encircled the man with their guns pointed at the man who was on the verge of death. He was left behind by the group of rebels the night before after the coalition troops had zeroed upon them.
The coalition forces had been informed of the location of the rebel group hideout by the intelligence earlier in the day. The spot was situated in the heart of a sprawling forest. The team had to make their way to the location by wriggling, crawling and sometimes squirming through the narrow pathways surrounded by tall grass on all sides. Dusk had started to settle in and navigation was getting tougher by each passing hour.
Oral communication between the troops was forbidden. They were supposed to communicate by tapping on the shoulder of the personnel moving ahead. Each instruction was represented by a specific number of taps. So, if a personnel sensed some kind of danger in their path and therefore wanted the troop to stop in its tracks, he had to tap two times on the shoulder of the personnel moving ahead of him, who in turn would tap the same number of times on the shoulder of the personnel before him and so forth. The domino effect would eventually bring the entire troop to a halt. A gap of at least three metres was to be maintained between every two commandos in a team. This ensured the impossibility of the entire team coming into the enemy’s firing range all at once. Moreover, the commando at the end of the team would walk backwards so as to offer protection from any threats approaching from behind. This commando would exchange position with the penultimate commando in the line after every two minutes.
The rebels somehow got tipped about the incoming coalition forces and immediately began planning for an ambush. Being locals, they knew the place like the back of their hands and laid siege to the exact lane through which the troop would pass to reach the place. They took position, set up their MMG guns and waited for the coalition forces to arrive.
As soon as Lucky’s team reached the spot, one of the rebels opened fire. The bullet however got stuck in the chamber and the MMG failed to fire. The resonating sound of the trigger renting the air, however, alerted Lucky to the position of the rebels.
The next moment, a barrage of bullets came showering towards the rebels. A fierce gunfight followed. Soon, the rebels began abandoning their position. All of them fled except one.
This rebel was unable to move due to bullets piercing his right shoulder and left leg. But he kept firing bursts at regular intervals so that the troops wouldn’t get near him. One of the bullets even whizzed past Lucky’s ear.
The team decided to wait till dawn and move at first light. But the morning began on a bad note when Lucky saw that the head of the friendly personnel right behind him had been blown off by a hail of bullets which the lone rebel had kept firing through the night. The coalition forces moved in to neutralise him.
After the man was incapacitated, Lucky brought his rifle forward and aimed it at the rebel to take the final shot. The rebel had resigned to his impending fate. Lucky saw the outlaw’s quivering lips. He was trying to say something. Lucky waited until the rebel spoke after gathering the last vestiges of strength in his body and spirit. “Your God was by your side today,” he said. “Mine wasn’t.”