An intense encounter between holed up terrorists and the security forces in Handwara town in Jammu and Kashmir's Kupwara district, which began on Saturday and continued late night, ended on Sunday, May 3.
According to reports, a colonel, one major and two Indian Army soldiers were martyred along with a police officer during the encounter with the militants.
The martyred Commanding Officer of 21 Rashtriya Rifles unit has been identified as Colonel Ashutosh Sharma. A Sena Medal awardee, he had been part of several successful counter-terrorism operations.
Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj along with a Lance Naik, a rifleman and police sub-inspector Shakeel Qazi lost their lives after the hours-long exchange of gunfire with terrorists hiding in one of the houses in the village.
Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Commanding Officer of 21 Rashtriya Rifles unit lost his life in an encounter yesterday with terrorists in Handwara area of Jammu and Kashmir. He had been part of several successful counter-terrorist operations in the past. pic.twitter.com/0buVlo9shj— ANI (@ANI) May 3, 2020
The Indian Army and the J&K Police had launched a joint search operation following inputs that terrorists were hiding in Chanjmulla area of Handwara.
India Today reported that re-enforcements were brought in and a door-to-door intervention was conducted as part of the standard operating procedure to identify the terrorists. Internet services were also suspended in Handwara as part of the operation.
However, the encounter began at around 3:30 pm on Saturday, April 2, during which two terrorists were shot dead by the security personnel.
The latest reports suggest that the security forces suffered a heavy blow from the militants as soon as they entered the house.
"During the process, the team was subjected to a heavy volume of fire by terrorists. In the ensuing firefight, two terrorists were eliminated and a team of five Army and J&K personnel comprising of two Army officers, two Army soldiers and one J&K Police Sub-Inspector attained martyrdom," ANI quoted Army Spokesperson as saying.
Reportedly, the civilians stuck in the house were evacuated safely.
Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, took to Twitter to pay tribute to the martyrs.
I offer my tributes to the soldiers and security personnel who fell in action. My heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones today. India stands shoulder to shoulder with the families of these brave martyrs.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) May 3, 2020
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.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) May 3, 2020