Battle of Maravar Pass

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Battle of Maravar Pass
Part of the Soviet war in Afghanistan
Date April 21–22, 1985
Location Sangam and Daridam, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
Result Soviet Victory
Belligerents
 Soviet Union Flag of Jihad.svg Afghan Mujahideen
Commanders and leaders
Soviet Union Cap. Nikolay Tsebruk † Jalauddin Haqqani
Strength
200 VDV Unknown
Casualties and losses
31 KIA Unknown

The Battle of Maravar Pass was an operation of the 1st Company of the 334th Detached Spetsnaz Group in Afghan villages of Sangam and Daridam on April 21, 1985, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the siege, the Soviet commander, Captain Tsebruk had lost his life while engaging the Mujahideen in combat.

Reports[edit]

On March, 27th, 1985, less than one month prior to the described events, 334-th Separate Special Purpose Group (OO SpN) was transferred to Asadabad, Province Kunar, Afghanistan from Mariansky Gorki, Belorussian Military District, USSR. On April 20, 1985, at 22:00, the group moved out from their home base Asadabad on foot, crossing river Kunar by ferry, having received the order to comb Sangam settlement located in Maravar Gorge, mere 3 km from the unit’s quarters. There was a report that a Mujahideen observation post of 8 - 10 persons has been spotted in Sangam. The unit’s commanders thought of the operation as a large-scale training exercise. The plan was simple: while the 1st Company was to advance toward the settlement through the narrow gorge's floor, the 2nd and 3rd Companies were to cover their advance from the ridges framing the gorge.

The Trap[edit]

The 1st Company had entered Sangam by 5:00 and combed the settlement. There were no opposition forces in the village, but two Mujahideen were spotted retreating further into the gorge. From his command post located near the entrance to the gorge, the 334th detachment commander, Major Terentyev, had ordered to capture or neutralize the enemy. The 1st Company commander, Captain Tsebruk had divided his men in 4 platoons and began to advance toward the Daridam settlement located 2 km deeper into the gorge. The groups were moving on both sides of the gorge’s bottom without any flank cover from the ridges. Out of all the leadership, only the commander of the 3rd Company had the full visual on that settlement from his position atop the ridge above Sangam. Only he was capable of reporting the unfolding events to Maj. Terentyev. First to encounter the enemy was Lt. Nikolai Kuznetsov’s platoon. Immediately, Captain Tsebruk had set out toward the shooting accompanied by 4 riflemen and leaving his radio operator and the platoon he had led behind to occupy an elevated terrace. It is believed that at this point Captain Tsebruk had grasped the situation and had attempted to prevent the inevitable, but was mortally wounded in the throat and died. At this point, Maj. Terentyev has lost his control over the flow of the battle. The trap had snapped shut behind the 1st Company: using the buses that are used to travel to bordering Pakistan, the enemy was able to circle to the rear of the 1st Company and block their retreat. On the flanks, Mujahideen heavy machine guns were nestled on both ridges to cover the elevated approaches to Daridam; they effectively blocked the 2nd and 3rd Companies from advancing to assist the 1st Company. Left on their own, the 1st Company personnel took firing positions wherever they could. In desperation they took cover behind the low mud walls. In sheer desperation, some lit the orange smoke grenades to call for air rescue. While the enemy numbers were overwhelming, the Soviet soldiers had only the minimal amount of ammunition, which was exhausted in mere minutes of the real combat.

The Attempted Rescue[edit]

While the events in the Maravar Gorge were unfolding, the troops remaining at the home base of 334th OO SpN at Asadabad were alerted. Hastily, they began assembling an armored column out of the remaining vehicles. The column was reinforced by the armor detachment belonging to an infantry battalion located nearby. Unfortunately the heavy vehicles could not have been loaded onto the local ferry, so the column had to cross Kunar via a 10 km-distant bridge, and then drive 13 km back toward the Maravar Gorge. The trip between the Asadabad base and Sangam settlement, a meager 3 km distance on the map, had turned into a 23 km grind across the arid, rugged, and mine-seeded Afghan terrain. Only one BMP out of the entire armored column was able to reach Maravar Gorge that morning. This lonely vehicle could not alter the fate of the 1st company in Daridam, but it quite possibly had saved the 2nd and 3rd companies, now under intensive attack in Sangam.

The Mop-up[edit]

Later in the afternoon of April 21, the armored column with the supporting infantry had finally reached the Maravar Gorge. They were met by the exhausted survivors carrying the injured. They had told a horrid tale of the fate of the captured troops, who were beheaded by the Mujahideen. Later, the Soviet troops were reinforced by 154th OO SpN arriving on helicopters from Jalalabad and the Air Assault Battalion of the 66th Airborne Brigade from Asadabad. The 2nd battalion of the 66th Brigade had also marched into the mountains. What was planned as a training raid, had grown into a major combat operation involving 4 battalions and frontal aviation units. The Mujahideen had continued fighting for 2 more days, covering the exodus of the civilian refugees from Sangam and Daridam settlements to Pakistan. Three more soldiers have lost their lives during the mop-up.

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