The Incursion at Habarut
The forts at Habrut were situated on either side of a wadi on the border between the Sultanate and PDRY. The border is an absolutely straight line other than at this point. It is here that a triangle of land belonging to the Sultanate projects westwards into PDRY territory.
The satellite picture below taken from Google Earth arrows the positions of the two forts on the opposite sides of the wadi and marks the boundary between Oman and PDRY
The picture below also taken from Google Maps is a view of the wadi. I assume that it was taken from near the modern Omani fort. There appear to be four concrete pillars in the wadi bed which may demarcate the boundary and a motor vehicle track on the PDRY side. There is also a “trig point” in the middle right which fits in with an angular bend in the border.
The modern photograph of the fort on the PDRY side seems to show that it has been repaired following the damage done in 1972
The sultanate fort was destroyed in 1972 and later rebuilt as this photograph below demonstrates.
Most accounts of the incursion at Habrut which preceded the bombing of Hauf concentrate on that which occurred on the 5th of May 1972 but there had been an incursion in February earlier in the year.
The SIO for the Negd Captain Hyatt wrote a report that concluded that
“It is not thought likely that the incidents enumerated above are the prelude to a major confrontation at HABARUT”
A transcript of that report, which only had a distribution list of three, is added below
The next significan event on the Western border of Oman was Operation SIMBA or the occupation of Sarfait by the Desert Regiment commanded by Col Nigel Knocker. This was an attempt to block the supply routes near to the coast and was implemented on the 19th of April. Whilst the supply routes were not totally interdicted the occupation of the area was symbolic politically and drained the resources of PFLOAG.
Further to the north east in the fort at Habrut was occuppied by some Dhofar Gendamerie,the Firqat al-Hudud al-Gharbiyah and their attendant SAS minders. On the 5th of May, for reasons best known to themselves, several members of FHG wandered off towards the middle of the wadi in the direction of the PDRY fort. Half way across firing commenced from the PDRY fort and three members of FHG were injured and fell to the ground.
The 100 men in the PDRY fort then attacked the Sultanate fort with machine guns, rifle fire and with mortars. One fragment of mortar fatally injured one of the BATT, Tpr Martin, entering near the scapula and probably injuring large blood vessels. A further fragment, shown on X-ray, appeared to have transected his spinal cord. Death would have been instantaneous.
The battle raged on for a couple of days and on account of the poor strategic position of the SAF fort the DG soldiers were withdrawn to a better position on high ground overlooking the wadi. The PDRY forces took the opportunity to use explosives to destroy the fort.
The sultan was not amused and understandably was intent on retaliation
The first phase of this was to be following a bit of leaflet dropping, an attack on the PDRY fort by SOAF
Naturally news of the upsets at Habrut soon reached the embassy in Muscat and were transmitted on to the UK