It was on Friday evening that Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Commanding Officer of 21 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) received an information about presence of some terrorists in Chanjmulla village in Handwara of Kupwara district.
Flashback to April 6: Five terrorists were killed in Keran sector (40 kms from Handwara) of Kupwara district after they had sneaked into the Indian territory from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) side. In the gunfight that ensued, five commandos of the Indian army were also killed. It was believed that some more terrorists had infiltrated into the Indian side.
Since April 6, army and police had information that it is likely that a total of three groups of terrorists had infiltrated from PoK. While one was intercepted and eliminated, two other groups were hiding somewhere.
All the army units in operational areas were also informed about the intelligence inputs and signal corps was pressed into duty to detect any activity over mobile or satellite phones by these terrorists. We cannot divulge as to how the army was able to know about the presence of terrorists in Chanjmulla village.
However as soon as the information came in about the presence of terrorists, Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood among other members of tactical team went to the spot along with the local police and surrounded the area. As per the information, the terrorists were hiding in a house in the village that was that was in a populated area and hence it was not possible to blow off the house.
After interacting with the locals, it was learnt by the army officers that there was presence of civilians inside the house who could have been used as a human shied as terrorists. As per sources in intelligence, the army did not use any weapons till Saturday as the presence of civilians was taken on humanitarian basis.
It has been learnt that Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood, Naik Rajesh, Lance Naik Dinesh and SI Shakeel Qazi then stormed the house as a small team and rescued the civilians who were sill stuck inside the house.
Sources said that the operation in Handwara to rescue the civilians started on Saturday evening after the dusk had set in. Armed with AK series assault rifles, the men started their journey on foot towards the house. Internet and electricity supply was already disconnected in the area.
The civilians were successfully released and the team of five men decided to eliminate the ultras. However, terrorists who were heavily armed started firing on the team and a gunfight ensued that continued till late Saturday evening. Five persons including Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood Naik Rajesh, Lance Naik Dinesh and SI Shakeel Qazi attained martyrdom.
It is important to mention here that Ashutosh Sharma has been twice awarded gallantry medals for counter terrorist missions in Kashmir. Ashutosh became the second CO of 21 RR in 20 years to attain martyrdom in field area.