Two senior army officers, a colonel and a major, were among five security personnel martyred in an encounter that ensued in Handwara town in Jammu and Kashmir's Kupwara district late Saturday. In nearly an eight-hour long firefight, security forces gunned down two terrorists, which included Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) chief identified as Haider. The identity of the second terrorist is yet to be ascertained.
"The chief commander of Lashkar in Valley, identified as Haider, has been killed in Handwara encounter. We had inputs that he was in Handwara to receive a fresh batch of infiltrators but was eliminated," Inspector General in Jammu Kashmir Police, Vijay Kumar, told India Today TV.
Army officer Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood and Lance Naik Dinesh 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 launched 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 civilians," the official statement read.
Condoling the death of security personnel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that their valour and sacrifice would 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," PM Modi said in a tweet.
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.- Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 3, 2020
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also paid tributes to the 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 tweeted.
I offer my tributes to the soldiers and security personnel who fell in action. My heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones today. India stands shoulder to shoulder with the families of these brave martyrs.- Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) May 3, 2020
Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat said the operations in Handwara highlighted the determination of the security forces to safeguard the lives of the people.