The Special Forces had to be sent in when the team of four Army personnel and the local J&K sub-inspector were not responding to any radio calls.
In a major encounter with terrorists in J&K’s Handwara, which lasted several hours, the Commanding Officer of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) 21 battalion was among the five killed on Saturday. It was almost a 20-hour long gunfight.
They had gone to rescue civilians who were taken in as hostages by three terrorists. Those killed included two officers — Col Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood, two Army jawans and J&K Police sub-inspector Shakeel Qazi.
According to reports two terrorists were killed in the operation carried out by the Special Forces. The Special Forces had to be sent in when the team of four Army personnel and the local J&K sub-inspector were not responding to any radio calls.
What did the Indian Army say?
On Sunday morning, in an official statement released by the Indian Army, it confirmed the deaths of the two officers and personnel in the operation carried out to free civilian hostages.
“In the ensuing fire fight two terrorists were eliminated and the team of five army and JK (Police) personnel comprising of two Army officers, two Army soldiers and one JK Police sub-inspector attained martyrdom,” stated the Army statement.
In the same district where last night’s incident took place, in an operation carried out in July 2018, Commanding Officer Col Santosh Mahadik of 41 Rashtriya Rifles had succumbed to injuries which he had sustained in an encounter.
When did the Operation to rescue hostages start?
Following inputs about the presence of terrorists, a cordon and search operation was launched by the Indian Army on Friday. A combined team of 21 RR, CRPF along with the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police went in Chanjmulla area of Handwara, which is in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.
According to sources, after an early contact, the suspected terrorists had gotten away. But they were being followed by the security forces.
The terrorists had managed to enter a civilian house, and on Saturday fresh encounter started. This operation was led by the team which was being led by Col Sharma, who was a two-time Sena Medal awardee for gallantry.
In the operation, though the civilians were rescued, while exiting the team came under heavy fire in an open compound the civilians were rescued.
“The radio contact with the CO and his team was lost, forcing the security forces to make a call on the CO’s mobile phone which was picked up by terrorists, and it was then the special forces were sent in,” explained the source.
The Special Forces took utmost precautions while entering that area and amidst exchanges of fire two terrorists were killed while attempting to escape. Their bodies have been recovered.
Due to bad weather, and darkness the operation had to be put on hold though a tight cordon remained in place. When at the break of dawn the forces entered the compound the bodies of the army officers and well as soldiers were recovered and also that of sub-inspector Qazi.