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On December 27,1979, a convoy of vehicles trod the path to the  Darul Aman Palace, Afghanistan. Inside the Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) that carried the troops were 22-24 of the best soldiers of the Russian military. There were 4-5 Alpha officers and the crew (commander,driver,gunner) in each vehicle. The Afghans with the  them included the man who would become the future Defence Minister. Their mission was simple : exterminate the Afghan President living at the palace. There was one major obstacle : 300 armed palace guards.

Rifle fire from the Afghans met the convoy as the first vehicle broke through the gate, but they were largely ineffective. Shilka Vehicles of the convoy returned fire as grenades were lobbed at the special forces. Civilian vehicles were on fire as grenades and gunfire greeted the descending troops. Taking cover behind their APCs, they moved to the building 20-30 metres away as palace grounds fired from the roof and the windows. Protected by their bullet-proof vests and helmets, the commandos eventually entered the building.

Once inside, each group knew what to do. They knew the place well and their movement was not random. Grenades were lobbed in, a burst was fired and then the room was cleared. Eventually, all resistance fell. The commandos approached President Amin's room.

Earlier on,  Amin was seen,half-dressed, shouting at his wife who was bringing Kalashnikovs. According to RT, Amin was behind a bar, dressed in Adidas trunks when the Russians entered. The first officer in killed him. A fragment from a grenade killed his 11 year old son. In the operation, as many as 200 Afghans soldiers and 5 Russian commandos died.

Widely considered as the most successful special op by the Russian Spetsnaz, (a term that refers to "special forces, not the Russian ones alone) very little information was available on this operation until on the 30th anniversary of the op, when   BBC  reported on it . Russia Today also had an exhaustive report on it, interviewing Afghan as well as Russian witnesses. What makes this operation so intriguing is not the massacre nature of the operation. It was how 24 well trained commandos were able to take on a force of 300 armed guards, killing atleast 65% of them.It was later confirmed that the Russian soldiers were ordered not to take any survivors. Former Russian special forces soldier Rustam Tursunkulov stated it was over in 43 minutes.

 In December 1979, as the fateful day approached, an attempted poisoning of  Amin was undertaken by Russian Intelligence. Department 8 of the KGB succeeded in infiltrating the illegal agent Mitalin Talybov (codenamed SABIR) as a chef of Amin's presidential palace. However, Amin switched his food and drink as if he expected to be poisoned, so his son-in-law became seriously ill, and ironically, was flown to a hospital in Moscow.

Concerned for his safety, Amin moved the presidential offices to the Tajbeg Palace. The Soviets deployed soldiers near the palace, ostensibly to help protect it. However, their real purpose was to scout out the area and form a plan of attack. On December 27 elements of the Alpha Group stormed the Presidential Palace.

Rustam Tursunkulov, a 23-year-old special forces commander with the Soviet army was outside the Tajbeg on that fateful day. With the special forces lacking body armour and "hardly any helmets", they initiated the coup.

Meanwhile, inside the recently refurbished palace, 11-year old Najiba was dining in the palace with lavish food. Gold lifts, chandeliers and sheer glitter decorated the place. At the first sounds of the explosion, Najiba and her family ran outside . Rustam's orders were to wipe out everyone in sight. When BBC asked him if he did, he replied that he was just a soldier carrying out his orders.

Note  :

There used to be a serious dearth of information on this topic. I've searched websites and search engines, hoping for more information on the topic. However, very little specific information was available. Now, however, it turns out that both Najiba and Rustam, the 11-year old Afghan girl and the special forces soldier are writing books about their experiences. Whether translated versions will ever see the light of day is any one's guess.


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