Colonel Ashutosh Sharma was one of the five security personnel killed in Handwara encounter.
Two senior army officers - a colonel and a major- were among five security personnel killed in action during an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir's Kupwara district, which began on Saturday and continued late night. A police officer and two soldiers were also part of the five-member team that came under heavy fire from terrorists.
A joint anti-terrorist operation by the armed forces and the J&K Police was carried out in the Handwara area of the district in north Kashmir, about 70 km from capital Srinagar, an official statement said, adding that the five-member team was able to rescue several civilians. Two terrorists were killed during the joint operation.
Decorated army officer Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood, Naik Rajesh Kumar and Lance Naik Dinesh from the 21 Rashtriya Rifles unit were part of the security operation; police officer Shakeel Ahmad Qazi was also with them. "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 told news agency PTI.
"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 official statement read.
"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.
In a tweet this afternoon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the "valour and sacrifice" of the security personnel "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," he wrote.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Twitter paid rich tributes to the army officers and security personnel killed in the encounter. "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 (sic)," he wrote.
The operations in Handwara "highlight the determination of the security forces to safeguard the lives of the people," Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat said in a statement.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has announced a government job and Rs 10 lakh compensation for family of the soldier from his state - Naik Rajesh Kumar - who was a part of the Handwara operation.
Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: "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. (sic)"