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MEMOIRS OF WIA SEYYED AHMAD ALAVI


                                 (IRANIAN NAVY SPECIAL FORCES (SBS


OPERATION SAFARI


In view of the success of Operation Ashkan confirmed by aerial reconnaissance reports to the 421st Task Force; it was decided to launch another operation under the name Safari on Nov.4th, 1980, utilizing the element of surprise as Operation Ashkan had taken effect only three days earlier.  It was believed that another operation close to the previous one in that region increased the element of surprise, as the enemy would most likely not expect such an attack that soon


After 34 days of resistance in Khorramshahr, we lost the city.  Besides the limited number of us, The Navy Special Forces, the residence of the city had rushed to the military bases to equip themselves with firearms to defend the city.  The heaviest weapon we had was the RPG-7 anti-tank shoulder launched rockets.  I lost many of my comrades during those 34 days of battle.  Upon the fall of Khorramshahr, we were tasked to set up two lines of defense at milestones 5 and 11 covering the left side of the front.  It was during this time when I was transferred to Bushehr to participate in a possible mission which I had no information of its time and whereabouts


Few days after my arrival, I was pulled aside by the late Rahman Olfati.  He was one of the few elite and resilient personnel whom had under gone the strenuous SBS courses in Great Britain and trained there.  We had a good working relationship with one another and were close friends.  He told me that I had been chosen for a mission which was classified as Top Secret and I was not to discuss it with anyone.  The objectives were the Al-Bakr & its sister terminal Al-Omayyeh in enemy territorial waters.  Only a handful of people knew of the plan.  Now, I know why I was summoned to Bushehr; however, I was surprised as to how early in to the war this sensitive operation was taking place 


The initial plan was proposed by Captain Mashvari which was revised considerably afterwards.  This operation would be the prelude to the final objective achieved in Operation Morvarid (Pearl).  The initial plan called for 36 divers to carry explosives to these terminals and blow up the platforms that were connected to the steel legs.  However, the rigs were situated in an area where three rivers, Khormousa, Bahmanshir and Arvand, met with the Persian Gulf.  The proposed plan faced many challenges; for one the rivers made it difficult for the divers to operate at sea due to strong currents. Second, among the chosen 36 marine commandos, not all were trained for this type of mission, reducing the success rate drastically and close to impossible.  Third, the amount of explosives each diver could carry would not be sufficient to create the damage and destruction the planners had in mind.  Taking the above into account, the Special Forces’ recommendation was to revise the plan fundamentally


What came to be known as Operation Safari were the collective thoughts of a few professional navy officers like Rear Admirals Kashani, Akhgar, the late Capt. Olfati and others.  The plan was to ferry the troops and supplies at night to the harbor by a non-military boat and have them set the explosives.  Although the risk of the mission seemed high, but the element of surprise was on our side because of its timing being close to Operation Ashkan, taken effect only a few days earlier


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Rahman Olfati had an exemplary record and his profound knowledge in his area of expertise made him an authority on the matter.  It was he who briefed the people involved in this mission highlighting even the smallest detail.  Twenty five of the Marine Commandos along with 2,500lbs of explosives departed Bushehr Port by boat on the evening of Nov.4th and headed towards Al-Bakr Rig.  The plan was for 11 of us to work on Al-Bakr and the remaining 14 to plant the explosives on Al-Omayyeh dock


There was total silence among the troops and the only thing that could be heard was the waves hitting the hull of the boat as it moved towards its destination under the night sky.  My friends and I looked calm but inside we were anxious about what fate had in stored for us.  Every once in a while, I could see two friends looking at one another in silence, exchanging bitter smiles; however, everyone was ready for the task at hand


The rough sea made it difficult for the boat carrying us to dock with the Al-Bakr terminal and before anyone could react or foresee the danger, it slammed into the dock, entangling the mainmast.  In fear of being discovered we scrambled to free the stuck tower from the steel structure to no avail.  The communication antenna broke off as the hull of the boat kept hitting the steel posts with every wave.  After twenty minutes of struggling, the broken mainmast was finally freed from the structure as we pulled away quietly and headed towards Norouz Rig, the closest available and isolated base.  We did not want to lose the element of surprise by warning the Iraqis of an impending second attack


We were all glad that we had escaped from a possible deadly situation; being threatened both by the enemy forces and the force of nature.  However, our joy and gratefulness soon dissipated once we realized we had no way of communicating with Norouz rig, endangering our approach to it in the dark night as they might identify us as the enemy.  As we got closer to Norouz, thanks to my comrade, Taher Firouzi, we managed to establish contact through our walkie-talkie.  Once we boarded the rig, we found out that we were seconds away from being blown into bits and pieces as the defensive batteries had locked on to us


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That night we were advised that the operation will take effect with a 24 hour delay.  We spent the night and all of next day on Norouz rig in anticipation of the upcoming mission which was aborted ending in possible disaster.  Peykan Missile boat was assigned to ferry us to the rigs; although, its mission description was patrolling an area close to Norouz rig.  I had heard of her commanding officer before, Lt. Cmdr. Mohammad Ebrahim Hemmati, who gave his life for his country a few weeks later during Operation Morvarid (Pearl), in which the Iraqi Navy was crippled for several years as well as termination of oil export by sea until the end of the Iran and Iraq war


At 23:00 hours we boarded the Peykan and headed for Al-Bakr and Al-Omayyeh terminals in complete silence like the night before.  The closer we got the rougher the sea became; however, Lt. Cmdr. Hemmati masterfully docked the boat against one the steel posts.  Immediately, eleven of us including myself boarded the terminal as we watched Peykan depart for Al-Omayyeh.  Carefully and quietly we climbed the steel bars and positioned ourselves out of enemy sight.  When I saw the enormity of the steel legs, I realized that the initial plan of destroying the terminal through collapsing the platforms was quite naïve.  We set the explosives and charges carefully as we raced against time.  It took us almost 24hrs to complete planting the devices around the control room, main oil pipe lines, storages, etc. which felt like a century to us.  Taher Firouzi was our leader as he confirmed the tens of locations where the explosives were to be set


On Al-Omayyeh our comrades also placed their explosives and containers of gasoline mixed with grated soap known as Molotov cocktail.  Al-Ommayeh dock area and platform was carpeted by wood compare to Al-Bakr which used perforated steel plating.  Also, many of the structures were made from wood; hence, the use of the handmade Molotov cocktail.  The length of the dock was over 1Km long connecting it to land.  Our communications were at minimum to avoid discovery as the Iraqi OSA missile boats patrolled the port all day long


As night fall approached and we were done with our task, all but two of us stayed behind to activate the charges, setting them at 20 minutes, due to the rain that had started that evening.  Taher Firouzi and Farrokh Kheiri were the two that stayed behind, inspecting the explosives again to make sure that they were dry.  Two other of my comrades also stayed behind on Al-Ommayeh. Once we cleared the Al-Bakr and Al-Ommayeh oil terminal, anxiousness began to grow among us in anticipation of the outcome of our mission


The helicopter approached the two platforms being mistaken as friendly by the Iraqis to our luck.  Of course, there are always mistakes during war and identifying the enemy as friendly and vice versa is a common occurrence in combat.  The terminals were damaged from Operation Ashkan and enemy forces were scattered over them in limited numbers, but the danger was the OSA patrolling boats during our part of the mission and extraction.  We learnt of their successful pick up as the morning of Nov.7th began.  Reporters and film crew were invited to witness the explosions, as the twenty minutes seemed like a lifetime to us.  Finally, the explosions began one by one and within minutes thick smoke covered the skies.  Al-Omayyeh was burning more intensely due to its wooden structure compare to Al-Bakr


The success of the mission increased moral in the navy as the Marine Commandos stood proud of their accomplishment that day.  The operation was perhaps viewed as the most daring in terms of its magnitude in the history of Iran Naval Special Forces.  Al-Bakr terminal was moderately damaged as some of the explosives failed to ignite due to the rain the night before.  Al Omayyeh terminal was heavily damaged mainly because of its wooden structure. Operation Ashkan and Safari were prelude to the final operation a few weeks later called, Moravird (Pearl), forcing Iraq to stop its oil export via sea as it lost about 70% of its naval capability during these operations


Link: Extraction of the two SBS servicemen minutes before the explosion: http://www.aparat.com/v/VbUNY


 


END


 


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