On this day (4 December) in 1971, the Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully targeted Pakistani installations at Changa Manga forest, Karachi, for the second consecutive day.
IAF's Hunters from Jamnagar Air Force Base (AFB), operating at their extreme limits, bombed Pakistani oil farms at Kiamari in Karachi on the morning of 4 December, effectively illuminating the area for the impending missile raid, set to be launched by the Indian Navy, that night.
The events of 4 December followed the preemptive strike by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on the evening of 3 December 1971, targeting IAF airbases in an attempt to open another front on the western side to divert the Indian armed forces' attention from the East Pakistan front.
The general population of Bangladesh, then known as East Pakistan, had risen against the Pakistan military following Operation Searchlight.
This operation, beginning on 26 March, aimed to take control of all 26 major cities of East Pakistan by eliminating all opposition, including politicians, police, judiciary, students and teachers.
What followed was a brutal display of killings and rapes, affecting women, children, and men alike, with estimates suggesting it led to the deaths of 300,000 to 3 million Bangladeshi civilians.
This massacre was initiated by the Pakistani Army in response to the Awami League, a Bengali-origin party led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, winning the elections.
Military dictator Yahya Khan, unwilling to transfer power from West to East Pakistan, launched Operation Searchlight, leading to widespread atrocities, forcing many Bengalis to seek refuge in India.
As Yahya Khan continued his brutal campaign against the Bengali population, who had taken up arms in response, the Indian Army, led by Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, prepared for war during the winter months.
It was then that Yahya Khan opted for a pre-emptive attack, hoping to open a second front in the west and divert the major concentration of the Indian Army from eastern Pakistan.
According to the IAF, the air raid conducted by six An-12s dropped approximately 66,000 pounds (29,937 kilograms) of munitions over targets in the Changa Manga forest area.
A total of 118 counter-air sorties were conducted, with attacks on Kumitola and Tezgaon airfields in the east, and various radar stations and airfields being targeted for the second day in a row.
The IAF Hunters, flying from Jamnagar air base, destroyed oil depots at Karachi, setting them ablaze and thereby paving the way for the navy’s missile raids the following day.
These naval raids, conducted by five naval missile boats on the intervening nights of 4 and 5 December under 'Operation Trident', struck Karachi again. The operation resulted in the destruction of the remaining oil farms and the sinking of four ships, including two destroyers, a minesweeper, and a cargo ship.
Editorial Associate at Swarajya. Writes on Indian Military and Defence.
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