Five forces personnel including a Colonel and Major-rank officers, a Police sub-Inspector, two other army men, and two rebels were killed in a fierce gunbattle at Chajimulla village in Handwara area of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Sunday.
A senior police officer said the cordon and search operation was launched Army, Police and paramilitary CRPF on Saturday following intelligence about the presence of rebels in the Village, surrounded by forests.
Srinagar-based defense spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia said the anti-militancy operation was launched based on the intelligence input that rebels were taking civilian inmates of a house in Changimul hostage.
He said a forces team comprising of five Army and Police personnel entered the target area occupied by the rebels to evacuate the civilians.
“The team successfully extricated the civilians. However, during the process, the team was subjected to a heavy volume of fire by the rebels,” Kalia said.
He said the team of five forces personnel comprising two Army officers, two army men, and one Police sub Inspector while two rebels were killed in the ensuing firefight.
A police official said the operation was called off on Sunday morning after a long gunbattle and the bodies of the forces personnel and the rebels were found inside the house.
“Arms and ammunition was also recovered along with the bodies of rebels,” he said.
The deceased forces personnel were identified as Col Ashutosh Sharma, Commanding Officer, Major Anuj Sood, Lance Naik Dinesh, Naik Rajesh of Army’s 21 RR and Sub-Inspector Sageer Ahmad Pathan of Special Operations Group (SOG) of police.
A police spokesman said one of the slain rebels was identified as Haider, a Pak national working with Lashkar e Toiba in Kashmir for the past couple of years and the identity of the other rebel was being ascertained.
Pathan, 42, a resident of Trad Karnah of Kupwara was appointed as a constable in 1999 in Armed Wing of Police.
SI Pathan is survived by three daughters, a son and aged parents.
Sources said the anti-militancy operation was launched against the rebels who escaped from the Rajwara forests on Friday afternoon.
He said the other parties of forces outside continued the operation through the night under the supervision of Brigadier Rathore, Deputy Inspector General of Police, north Kashmir, Suleman Choudhary and SP Sundeep Chakravarti.
Sources said the contact with the team of five forces personnel, who had went inside the target house, was lost following which more reinforcement was called in to assist the already engaged forces in the operation.
The forces had set up heavy lights in the area to ensure the rebels break the cordon.
The slain rebels were believed to had come to Handwara to receive an infiltrating group from Pakistan, officials said.
Col Sharma had been decorated for gallantry twice. He is the second officer of his rank from the battalion to die in Kashmir rebels in 20 years.
In 2000, Colonel RS Chauhan of the 21 RR and a Brigadier SS Shergil were killed in an IED blast.
The Colonel-rank officer’s killing happened in Kashmir after five years. In 2015, the Army had lost two colonels in the valley.
Colonel M N Rai of 2/9 Gorkha Rifles, was the CO of 42 RR when he was killed in a gunfight with rebels in Tral area in South Kashmir in 2015.
In the same year, Col Santosh Mahadik was killed in an encounter in Kupwara area.