"India stands shoulder to shoulder with the families of these brave martyrs," Singh said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday described as “deeply disturbing and painful” the killing of five security personnel including a decorated colonel and a major in an anti-terror operation in Handwara area of north Kashmir.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, paying rich tributes to the deceased personnel, said the operation in Handwara highlighted the determination of the security forces to safeguard the lives of the people of Kashmir.
Col Ashutosh Sharma, the commanding officer of the 21 Rashtriya Rifles battalion, was among those killed in the encounter which began on Saturday and continued till late last night.
Col Sharma, a gallantry awardee, was part of a number of successful counter-terror operations in Kashmir.
The other personnel killed in the encounter are Major Anuj Sood, Naik Rakesh Kumar, Lance Naik Dinesh Singh and Sub-Inspector of Jammu and Kashmir Police Shakeel Qazi, according to officials.
The operation was launched following inputs that a number of civilians were being held hostage in a house in Changimulla locality of Handwara. Two terrorists were killed in the operation, according to Army officials.
“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,” the defence minister 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,” Singh said.
Hailing Col Sharma, Gen Rawat said the Commanding Officer of the unit led from the front along with other personnel living up to the motto of “Service Before Self”.
“The armed forces are proud of their courage as they have successfully eliminated the terrorists. We salute these brave personnel and express our deep felt condolences for the bereaved families,” Gen. Rawat said, according to the Army.
The Army, in a tweet, said Chief of Army Staff General M M Naravane and all ranks of the force paid tributes to the “valiant braves of our Army and J&K Police for their supreme sacrifice while fighting and eliminating terrorists in Handwara.”