New Delhi: An Army Colonel, a Major and two jawans of Indian Army were among five security personnel martyred in an encounter with terrorists in Handwara district of North Kashmir. A sub-inspector of J&K police also lost his life in the gun-battle. Besides, two terrorists were also neutarlised in the encounter. Also Read - Day After Forces Foiled Pulwama-Style Attack, Cops Identify Owner of Explosives-Laden Car

Among those martyred is the Commanding Officer, Major of 21 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) unit, SM Colonel Ashutosh Sharma. Col Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood who lost their lives in the encounter belonged to 19 Battalion of the Brigade of Guards, while officers and jawans martyred in the encounter were from 21 Rashtriya Rifles. Also Read - Pulwama-like Terror Attack Averted: Vehicle Suspected of Carrying 40-45 Kgs of Explosives; JeM Has Main Role, Says Top Cop

Other security personnel who were martyred in Handwara today have been identified as Naik Rajesh and Lance Naik Dinesh. Also Read - Yet Again, 4G Internet Services Banned in Jammu and Kashmir Till June 17

Notably, Army Col Ashutosh Sharma was leading a team to rescue civilians who had been taken hostage by the terrorists hiding in a house at the Chanjmullah area of Handwara in frontier Kupwara district yesterday. Sharma had been part of several successful counter-terrorist operations in the past.

The J&K Police and the Indian Army had launched a joint operation upon receiving Intel inputs that civilians were being held hostage inside a home in Changimulla. A team comprising five security personnel entered the area successfully managed to release the civilians but they came under heavy fire by militants which was effectively retaliated by the security personnel in the outer cordon.

What Army Said?

“Based on the intelligence input that terrorists were taking the civilian inmates of a house in Changimulla, (in the) Handwara (area) of Kupwara district, hostage, a joint operation was launch by Army and JK Police. A team comprising of five Army and JK Police personnel entered the target area occupied by the terrorists to evacuate the civ (civilians).” The team of Army and JK Police entered the tgt (target) area and successfully extricated the civ. However, during the process, the team was subjected to heavy volume of fire by the terrorists,” it added.

Defence Minister Pays Tribute

Paying tribute to the martyrs, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said,”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’ll never forget their bravery and sacrifice.”

“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”, he added.

J&K DGP Expresses Grief

Speaking to PTI, Dilbagh Singh, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police (DGP) said, “Sad to inform that five brave personnel including Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood and sub-inspector of JKP Shakeel Qazi were martyred in the line of duty.”

NC leader Omar Abdullah Pays Tribute 

National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah paid truibute to the the army officers and security personnel. “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,” he tweeted.