Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, an NSG commando, was killed at the Taj Mahal Hotel. In the words of then NSG chief JK Dutt, Unnikrishnan ‘took a very big risk’ to exploit a window of opportunity, but fell to the bullet of a terrorist after he rescued an injured commando and then rushed up the stairs deciding to take on the terrorists alone. The terrorists were positioned on the landing on the first floor where they engaged the NSG team. As the team advanced, one of the commandos was injured and fell on the staircase. Unnikrishnan and his team rushed to rescue him. As his colleague was carrying the injured man to safety, the firing continued from the landing above. That is when Unnikrishnan decided to go after the terrorists alone. When he was chasing one of the terrorists, he came in front of a room where a third terrorist was hiding behind cushions and fell to bullets from him. Unnikrishnan was honoured with an Ashok Chakra on January 26, 2009.
He was the most high-profile police victim of 26/11 and his death in the first few hours of the attack being launched sent shockwaves across the country. Karkare, the head of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, died in a hail of bullets from Kasab and Khan near Rang Bhavan. The 1982-batch IPS officer was a thorough gentleman and was known for his politeness and strong character. In the days and weeks before 26/11, he was struggling to come to terms with allegations of bias against him after he had led the ATS to crack the September 29 Malegaon bomb blast case and had found Hindu groups to be behind it. Hours before the 26/11 attacks began, Karkare had met Home Minister R R Patil and conveyed how hurt he felt for being targeted by Hindu groups. On being informed of the attacks, Karkare had left his Dadar residence and rushed with some of his men to CST railway station. There he was told that the two terrorists had fled towards the narrow lane beside The Times of India leading to Cama Hospital. Karkare donned his bulletproof jacket and helmet and rushed into the lane with his men. Shortly afterwards, he was gunned down along with two other senior officers who drove into a blind alley where Kasab and Khan were waiting.
The other high-profile IPS officer to be killed on the night of 26/11, Kamte was the Additional Commissioner of Police (East Region) and died in the same vehicle as Karkare. A brilliant marksman and the quintessential tough-cop, Kamte had been an accomplised athlete who had represented India in the junior power-lifting championship in Peru in 1978. He was known to be a daredevil officer willing to rush into combat any threat, and had built a reputation of being an expert at handling mobs and riots. Kamte had left his Chembur residence on being informed of the attacks. He met Karkare and other policemen near the Azad Miadan Police Station Club and drove into the blind alley after the encounter inside the hospital had ended.
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One of the last of Mumbai Poice’s famous encounter specialists, Senior Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar was posted as the head of the Anti-Extortion Cell of the Mumbai Police Crime Branch during 26/11. A 1983-batch officer, Salaskar had gunned down over 80 criminals through his career and had built an extensive intelligence network. On November 26, he was killed by Kasab and his partner along with Karkare and Kamte near Rang Bhavan. He was awarded the Ashok Chakra for his sacrifice. Salaskar had left home and headed towards the Colaba police station to interrogate two terrorists caught by the Colaba police. On reaching the police station, Salaskar realised that the two suspects caught were actually Israeli security guards. He was then instructed to head to the Mumbai Police headquarters at Crawford Market. Salaskar and two of his juniors drove towards the headquarters. On the way, Salaskar spotted two armed policemen outside the Azad Maidan Police Station Club who informed him about the firing at Cama Hospital. Salaskar and his men rushed to the rear gate of the hospital, where he met Karkare and Kamte. The three officers and some constables drove into the alley adjoining the hospital and were ambushed by Kasab and Khan.
An Assistant Sub-Inspector with the D B Marg police station, Tukaram Omble was one of the heroes of 26/11. He is seen as having gone beyond the call of duty and laid down his life capturing Ajmal Kasab – providing the Mumbai Police its biggest breakthrough. For his ultimate sacrifice, he was awarded the Ashok Chakra. Omble was ordered to take up a position on Marine Drive on the night of November 26. As news filtered in on his walkie-talkie that two terrorists had hijacked a Skoda near Vidhan Bhavan and were headed towards Marine Drive, he spotted the car speed past him. Omble swerved in front of the car causing it to veer and hit a divider. In the decisive moments that followed Omble ran towards Kasab, grabbed his AK-47 rifle and tried to pull him out of the vehicle. A volley of five bullets hit Omble as Kasab pressed down on the trigger. Omble still did not let go of the rifle, enabling other policemen to overpower Kasab whose partner had already been shot dead by then.
Attached to the CST railway police station, Police Inspector Shashank Shinde was killed by Ajmal Kasab and his partner Ismail Khan. When the duo started lobbing grenades and firing indiscriminately inside the station, Shinde was one of the first to retaliate. Shinde, a 1987-batch officer, was getting ready to leave for home when gunshots were heard. On spotting the terrorists, Shinde took out his service revolver and fired two rounds. He was shot in the abdomen and fell to the ground, succumbing to injuries. The resistance faced by the two terrorists ultimately drove them out of the station, preventing a huge crisis there.
An officer of the 1987 batch, Shinde had worked with the Crime Branch for a few years. He was also with the Protection Department and the Traffic Police Department before being transferred to the GRP. His assistant, Pradeep, says, “He was a very helpful and dashing officer who would never hesitate to rush in for any kind of operation.”