New Delhi: Top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander –Haider, who hails form Pakistan has been killed on Sunday in the Handwara encounter. The fierce gunbattle between the Army and the Jammu and Kashmir Police at a village in north Kashmir’s Handwara area also claimed lives of an Army Colonel and a Major and five security personnel. Also Read - Unlock Phase I Begins; India Now Seventh Worst-hit Country in World With Over 1.82 Lakh COVID-19 Cases

“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,” Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh said. Col. Sharma was the Commanding Officer of the 21 Rashtriya Rifles and had been decorated for gallantry twice in Kashmir. Also Read - Coronavirus: Cases in Pakistan Rise Above 69,470; Death Toll Nears 1,500-mark

Based on the intelligence input that terrorists were taking hostage some civilians in a house in Changimulla at Handwara of Kupwara district, a joint operation was launched by the Army and the Jammu and Kashmir Police. Also Read - Two Pakistan High Commission Officials Caught in Delhi For Spying, to Leave India Within 24 Hours

The Army in a statement said that a team comprising of five Army and police personnel entered the target area occupied by the terrorists to evacuate the civilians and successfully extricated them. “However, during the process, the team came under a heavy volume of fire by the terrorists and in the ensuing firefight, two terrorists were eliminated and the five Army personnel and a policeman were killed in the line of duty”, the Army said.

The terrorists are believed to have come to Handwara to receive an infiltrating group from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Besides Colonel Ashutosh Sharma and Major Anuj Sood, the other Army personnel killed in the encounter were identified as Naik Rajesh and Lance Naik Dinesh.