Handwara encounter inside details: Terrorists used civilians as human shields, hid in their house

Security forces were on the trail of a group of terrorists in the forest area of Rajwara in Jammu Kashmir’s Kupwara near Handwara on May 1 when the first contact was made at around 3 pm.

This was the same group that took shelter in a house in Changimulla, Handwara where five security personnel including an Indian army colonel who was commanding the unit part of the operation were killed.

While four army personnel and one from Jammu and Kashmir police were killed in action, two terrorists were gunned down.

The terrorists managed to give security forces a slip after being cornered as they used 11 civilians as human shields including five women and children.

“One terrorist was injured in the brief gun battle but the group of 3-4 terrorists managed to flee,” said a source privy to the details.

Sources said as civilians were being used as a shield the operation had to be halted.

As fresh intelligence on their movement came in, the terrorists were founding hiding in a home taking civilians hostage in a house in Changimulla in Handwara of Kupwara district hostage.

Sources said the first information about a group of terrorists active in the forest areas came in on April 28. “Searches were launched and contact was made on May 1,” said an official.

The following day on May 2, based on new inputs, another operation was launched zeroing in a house in Changimulla, Handwara.

A joint operation was launched by Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police. A team comprising of five Army and J&K Police personnel entered the target area occupied by the terrorists to evacuate the civilians.

As the team moved in there was heavy firing from one corner of the house. “Later it was found that the terrorists were hiding in a cowshed and firing from there. Two of them were killed but we lost five men,” said an official.

While two terrorists were killed, there were at least two more terrorists in the premises of the house who fired from a different direction that resulted in the casualties.

“The team of Army and J&K Police personnel entered the target area and successfully extricated the civilians. However, during the process, the team was subjected to a heavy volume of fire by the terrorists. In the ensuing firefight, two terrorists were eliminated and the team of five Army and J&K Police personnel comprising of two Army officers, two Army soldiers and one J&K Police Sub Inspector attained martyrdom,” a statement from the Army said.

Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Sena Medal Major Anuj Sood, Naik Rakesh Kumar, Lance Naik Dinesh Singh and Sub Inspector Shakeel Qazi laid down their lives in the operation.

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