Top LeT commander killed in Handwara gunfight

North Kashmir Encounter Kills Colonel Major Among 5 Security Personnel

Army Chief General MM Naravane on Monday said India is proud of Col Ashutosh Sharma, the Commanding Officer of 21 Rashtriya Rifles battalion, and four other security personnel who laid down their lives while saving civilians from terrorists at a village in Handwara in north Kashmir.

Meanwhile, two unidentified militants were killed in another gunfight in South Kashmir's Pulwama district on Saturday, said police. The dead included the two militants, one of them identified as a Pakistani.

The name of the 21 Rashtriya Rifles Commanding Officer who lost his life in the Handwara encounter is Colonel Ashutosh Sharma.

A reflection of a solider manning the road in north Kashmir's Handwara town. "The team of Army and JK Police entered the area and successfully extricated the civilians", an official statement read.

A team comprising of five Army and JK Police personnel entered the target area occupied by the militants to evacuate the civilians, the spokesman said.

Fearing for their lives, the terrorists had come down and entered a local house in the Chanjimulla village without caring about the lives of the villagers.

As word spread on Saturday night itself that all five members of the team might be killed, the Army said the operation was still in progress, and that the reports were speculative. In 2000, the then CO and a Brigadier had died in an IED attack.

He said that the army and the police officers were stuck in a house where the terrorists were hiding. The identity of the second terrorist is yet to be ascertained.

Two terrorists were killed in the encounter, they said.

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". In 2015, the Army had lost two colonels in a year in Kashmir. The situation on the ground remains tense as cross-border shelling and skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani troops often occur along the Line of Control (LoC).

The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Medical Superintendent of Handwara District Hospital Dr Rouf said two people had been referred for "specialised treatment".