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Colonel, Major, two soldiers, police officer among 7 killed in Handwara gunfight

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Srinagar: In one of the deadliest encounters of 2020 so far, five security personnel including a Colonel, Major, two Army soldiers, and a Police Officer were killed in an overnight gunfight in Handwara area of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

Two militants were also killed in the encounter, Army officials said on Sunday.


The encounter broke out at Changimul area of Handwara late Saturday evening between militants and the security forces after joint teams of forces laid a siege in the area on the basis of a specific lead about presence of militants hiding.

“Based on the intelligence input that terrorists were taking the civilian inmates of a house in Changimulla, Handwara of Kupwara district hostage, a joint operation was launched by Army and JK Police. A team comprising five Army and JK Police personnel entered the target area occupied by the terrorists to evacuate the civilians. The team of Army and JK Police entered the area and successfully extricated the civilians.

“However, during the process, the team was subjected to heavy volume of fire by the terrorists. In the ensuing fire fight, two terrorists were eliminated and the team of five army and JK personnel, comprising two Army officers, two Army soldiers and one JK Police Sub Inspector, attained martyrdom,” the official statement from the Army said.

Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, who lost his life in Handwara, was decorated twice for gallantry in counter-terrorist operations, reported news agency ANI.

The five personnel had gone missing during the anti-militancy operation on Saturday, several local and national reports said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh condoled the deaths on Twitter. “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,” he wrote.

Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah also paid tribute to the fallen soldiers.

“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,” Omar tweeted.

The gunfight turned into one of the deadliest ever in the recent past where security forces suffered heavy causalities. This year, security forces have been able to kill over 50 militants of which 34 alone have been killed since the outbreak of pandemic Covid 19 alone.

Defence sources said that the operation was concluded and the bodies of two slain militants have been recovered from the site of encounter. The bodies of slain Army officers, soldiers and the police officer have also been retrieved.