A Colonel, Major and two jawans of the Indian Army along with a sub-inspector of J&K police were killed in an encounter in North Kashmir’s Handwara on Sunday, in which two terrorists were also killed.
Based on the intelligence input that terrorists were taking the civilians living in a house in Changimulla, Handwara, of Kupwara district hostage, a joint operation was launched by Army and JK Police.
"A team comprising five Army and JK Police personnel entered the target area occupied by the terrorists to evacuate the civilians. The team of Army and JK Police entered the area and successfully extricated the civilians, an officials statement of the army said.
"However, during the process, the team was subjected to heavy volume of fire by the terrorists. In the ensuing fire fight, two terrorists were eliminated and the team of five army and JK personnel, comprising two Army officers, two Army soldiers and one JK Police Sub Inspector, attained martyrdom,” the official statement added.
Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, the commanding officer of the 21 Rashtriya Rifles unit who lost his life in Handwara, was decorated twice for gallantry in counter-terrorist operations.
The five personnel had gone missing during the op on Saturday.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Chanjmulla area of Handwara in the north Kashmir's Kupwara district on Friday following inputs about the presence of militants there, a police official said. He said the security forces maintained a tight cordon and conducted searches in the area.
However, contact with militants was established on Saturday evening and an encounter ensued, the official said.
Condoling the death of the security personnel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that their valour and sacrifice will never be forgotten.
"Tributes to our courageous soldiers and security personnel martyred in Handwara. Their valour and sacrifice will never be forgotten. They served the nation with utmost dedication and worked tirelessly to protect our citizens. Condolences to their families and friends," Modi said in a tweet.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also condoled the deaths on Twitter. "The loss of our soldiers and security personnel in Handwara(J&K) is deeply disturbing and painful. They showed exemplary courage in their fight against the terrorists and made supreme sacrifice while serving the country. We will never forget their bravery and sacrifice," he wrote.
Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah also paid tribute to the fallen soldiers.
Sorry to hear about the army & police officers & the jawan who laid down their lives in the line of duty in Handwara this morning. May their souls rest in peace & may their families & colleagues find strength at this difficult time.— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) May 3, 2020