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SOURCE: THE PRINT

US President Donald Trump tweeted a picture of the K9 soldier who had chased down ISIS leader Ab? Bakr al-Baghdadi through a dark and dangerous tunnel in Idlib, Syria, during a Delta Force raid over the weekend that eventually killed him. The dog has now been identified as Conan, a Belgian Malinois, who is back to duty after being injured in the operation. It was the same breed of the dog that was used by the US Navy Seals in the 2011 operation that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Known for their super agility, sharp mind and spectacular endurance and aggressiveness, the Belgian Malinois has emerged as the new favourite of the special forces and enforcement agencies across the world.

Unlike a German Shepherd, these dogs are ideal for parachuting and fast-roping out of aircraft because of their smaller size.

Their shorter coat is also ideal for hot environments such as Iraq or Afghanistan. The breed has been so prominent in recent wars that the Special Operations Force Dog Memorial in Fayetteville, North Carolina, features a bronze statue of a Belgian Malinois, according to Washington Examiner.

“The dog holds one rank higher than who’s handling them because that’s how valued they are as a team member,” Deborah Scranton, a filmmaker who directed the documentary War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend, told the Washington Examiner.

Traditionally, the dogs hold the rank of a non-commissioned officer. They outrank their handlers as a way to prevent mistreatment, according to the US Army.

This breed of dogs is also used by Indian security forces such as the CRPF, CoBRA and ITBP in anti-Naxal operations.

The dog was also a part of the NSG operations during the Pathankot attack and was able to pin down a terrorist which helped the forces to shoot him down with ease.

The Belgian Malinois in India

Originally from Belgium, the Malinois is known as the herding dog. They usually have a rich fawn to mahogany colour with black mask and ears. With an average height of 24-26 inches for males and 22-24 inches for females, these dogs weigh around 20-30 kg, depending on the sex.

“We earlier used German Shepherds and Labradors. While Labs were purely used for sniffing, the German Shepherds were also used for offensive operations,” DIG M.L. Ravindra, chief of the CRPF Dog Breeding and Training School in Bengaluru, told ThePrint.

The CRPF was the first to introduce the breed in India and it has now emerged as the favourite for security forces involved in long operations.

“Our operations in Naxal areas are long and can last several days when the troops march through thick jungles. The Labradors and the German Shepherds could walk about 3-4 km continuously. However, the Belgian Malinois can walk up to 30 km continuously. They are extremely agile and aggressive but listen to commands just like the German Shepherds,” Ravindra said.

There are currently 553 Belgian Malinois which have been deployed by the CRPF, while 192 of them are undergoing training. The DIG said the force is currently facing a shortage of about 500 dogs.

The canine units in the CRPF have been able to save several human lives as they are usually the first ones to alert about an Improvised Explosive Device.

The ITBP also runs its own training centre in Panchkula and caters to multiple forces, including the Special Protection Group that protects the Prime Minister. Here they train multiple breeds, including the Belgian Malinois.

“We train for ourselves and for various forces across the country. We are also trying out new breeds, including the Indian breed Mudhol Hounds. These dogs are giving excellent results and they are cost-effective too,” an ITBP officer told The Print.

Three years after the Army inducted the indigenous breed of Mudhol Hounds in its inventory, the canines have now been validated at several units for operations and other routine duties.

The BSF too has a dog training centre at the BSF Training Academy in Tekanpur, Madhya Pradesh. The National Training Centre for Dog was established in 1970. BSF officers said that so far 4,443 dogs have been trained from this institution for BSF and other police organisations.