Operation Cactus

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The 1988 Maldives coup d’état , was the
attempt by a group of Maldivians led by
Abdullah Luthufi and assisted by armed
mercenaries of a Tamil secessionist
organisation from Sri Lanka, the People’s
Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam
(PLOTE), to overthrow the government in the
island republic of Maldives . The coup d’état
failed due to the intervention of the Indian
Army, whose military operations efforts were
code-named Operation Cactus by the Indian
Armed Forces.

The operation started on the night of 3
November 1988, when Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft of
the Indian Air Force airlifted the elements of
the 50th Independent Parachute Brigade,
commanded by Brig Farukh Bulsara, the 6th
Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, and, the
17th Parachute Field Regiment from Agra Air
Force Station and flew them non-stop over
2,000 kilometres (1,240 mi) to land them over
the Malé International Airport on Hulhule
Island . The Indian Army paratroopers arrived
on Hulhule in nine hours after the appeal from
President Gayoom.
The Indian paratroopers immediately secured
the airfield , crossed over to Male using
commandeered boats and rescued President
Gayoom. The paratroopers restored control of
the capital to President Gayoom’s government
within hours. Some of the mercenaries fled
toward Sri Lanka in a hijacked freighter. Those
unable to reach the ship in time were quickly
rounded up and handed over to the Maldives
government. Nineteen people reportedly died in
the fighting, most of them mercenaries. The
dead included two hostages killed by the
mercenaries. The Indian Navy frigates
Godavari and Betwa intercepted the freighter
off the Sri Lankan coast, and captured the
mercenaries. Swift operation by the military
and precise intelligence information
successfully quelled the attempted coup d’état
in the island nation.

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