Colonel, Major, 2 soldiers, SOG officer, 2 militants killed in fierce gunfight in Handwara

Srinagar, May 3: In a major escalation in violence, a colonel rank officer, a Major, Sub-Inspector of police in Special Operation Group, were among five forces personnel killed in a fierce gunfight with militants in Chanjimulla Handwara, a forest area in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, on Sunday.

Two militants were also killed in the gunfight which broke out at around 3:45 p.m. on Saturday.  

Highly reliable official sources said that after an initial fierce firefight, there was a lull following which five security men—a Colonel namely Ashutosh Sharma, a Major namely Anup Sood and two soldiers of 21 Rashtriya Rifles besides a Sub Inspector namely Mohammad Sagier Qazi of J&K Police’s Special Operation Group —moved close to a cowshed near the house where the militants had taken refuge after escaping from nearby Rajwara forests on Friday afternoon.

However, there was a standoff between them and militants amid inclement weather. The five men lost contact with colleagues on ‘tour of duty,’ sources added.

Colonel Ashutosh Sharma of 21 RR who got killed during the gunfight

Afterwards, the army rushed more personnel including those from the elite para forces to the area in a bid to “rescue the men with whom contact was lost and to neutralize the militants.”

The operation, they sources said, was suspended for the night for “obvious reasons” amid inclement weather as it was raining heavily in the area.

At the first light on Sunday, all the five men were found dead, they said.

An army officer confirmed the casualties and said that the bodies of two militants were also recovered. The officer said that a soldier namely Shinbe Mangesh sustained injury in his right leg and was hospitalized.

A senior police officer also confirmed the death of the five security men and two militants. The officer said that the “operation has been concluded” as bodies of the slain militants have also been recovered along with two weapons and other “warlike stores”.

He said that both the militants were foreigners and their group affiliation and identities are being ascertained.

“In this connection, a case under relevant sections of law has been registered and further investigations were taken up,” the officer said.

Pertinently, a search operation was started by the army’s 15 and 21RR besides 9 para commandoes and police in Rajwar and Mawar forest areas of Handwara on Friday afternoon amid reports that a group of militants was hiding there.

The search team had also fired several warning shots during the cordon and search operation following which an encounter ensued. The militants later took shelter inside a residential house in nearby area and army and police cordoned off the village and sealed all possible ways to prevent the militants from escaping. (GNS)

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