Reyaz Rashid

Colonel, Major among 5 personnel killed in Handwara encounter; two militants neutralized

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Srinagar: Two senior army officers, including a colonel-rank officer, were among five security personnel killed during an encounter with militants at a village in Rajwar forests of North Kashmir, officials said Sunday.

The deceased security personnel were identified as Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood, Naik Rajesh and Lance Naik Dinesh, all from the Brigade of GUARDS regiment, and at present part of the 21 Rashtriya Rifles, deployed to counter terrorism in the hinterland.

A Jammu and Kashmir Police Sub-Inspector, Shakeel Qazi, also fell victim of to the bullets of militants.

The two holed-up militants, who were eliminated in the encounter, included commander of banned Lashker-e-Taiba Haider alias Iqbal, a Pakistani national who has been active in North Kashmir area. The second killed militant was identified as Asif Reshi son of Mohammad Sultan Reshi of Gund Chabootra Handwada.

Commanding Officer of an Army’s counter-insurgency unit 21 Rashtriya Rifles along with an Army Major, a sub inspector of J&K Police’s Special Operation Group (SOG) and two Army Jawans lost contact with forces when the joint party went inside the house in Chanjimullah village where militants were hiding, officials said.

The Army officers were leading a joint operation team to rescue civilians who had been taken hostage by the hiding militants, they said.

“When we lost contact with the team for the several hours and found communication device of the team with militants, we understood the team has been kept hostage by militants and all is not well,” a top Army official said.

Heavy reinforcement was rushed including elite para forces to the area in a bid to rescue the team and to neutralize the militants.

The operation continued for night with severe impediments due inclement weather as it was raining heavily in the area, sources said.

At the first light on Sunday, the worst fears of the security establishment came true as all the five men were found dead, they said.

Director General of JK police Dilbagh Singh 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.”

Security forces had noticed presence of some terrorists in the Rajwar forests in Handwara area for the past few days and a brief exchange of fire had taken place on Thursday deep inside the jungles.

Around Saturday afternoon, intelligence inputs indicated presence of the same group of terrorists inside a house at Changimulla village, prompting Col Sharma to launch a cordon and search operation along with his team and Qazi.

After a considerable lull, Col Sharma and four others personnel barged into a cowshed adjacent to the house, presuming that the terrorists had been eliminated in the heavy gunfire.

According to the officials, the team came under heavy fire after rescuing the civilians and all communication links with Col Sharma and his team were snapped. Calls made on the mobile numbers of the team were answered by terrorists.

The Army then rushed in para-troopers, who after ascertaining that the Army officer and his team were killed in the encounter, launched an offensive by the first light of the day and killed the two terrorists.

PM, DM, LG, Army Chief pay tributes to slain security personnel

New Delhi: Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh and Jammu and Kashmir’s Lt. Governor, Girish Chandra Murmu paid rich tributes to the security personnel who were killed in an encounter with militants in Handwara area of north Kashmir.

Condoling the death of security personnel in an encounter with terrorists in Kashmir, 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 on Sunday described as “deeply disturbing and painful” the killing of five security personnel including two senior Army officers, a colonel and a major, in an anti-terror operation in the Handwara area of north Kashmir.

Singh said the security personnel showed exemplary courage in their fight against the terrorists and that their bravery and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

“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,” the defence minister tweeted.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat said the anti-terror operation highlighted the determination of the security forces to safeguard the lives of the people of Kashmir.

The Army, in a tweet, said Chief of Army Staff General M M Naravane and all ranks of the force paid tributes to the “valiant braves of our Army and JK Police for their supreme sacrifice while fighting and eliminating terrorists in Handwara.”

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu today paid rich tributes to the Security Personnel who laid down their lives in an encounter with the terrorists in Handwara.

“We salute the valour of the Army, Police and other security forces for playing a crucial role in combating terrorism and ensuring safe and secure environment for the people”, he said.

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