An Indian colonel and major were among security personnel killed in a gun battle following a hostage crisis in Handwara, Kashmir. The colonel was the highest-ranking army official to die in an operation of this type in five years.

Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, the commander of the special 21 Rashtriya Rifles counter-terrorism unit, was killed in an hours-long gunfight in the Kupwara District of the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, officials told Indian media.

It is reported that Sharma – the recipient of gallantry awards in the past – was the first Indian commanding officer or a colonel-rank military official to die in a counter-terrorism operation since 2015.

Major Anuj Sood, two army soldiers, and a police officer were also killed in the encounter.

Indian security forces launched an operation on Saturday afternoon to rescue civilians held hostage inside a house. The army units came under a “heavy volume of fire” during the raid, the military said. The siege of the house lasted more than 12 hours, resulting in two militants being killed and all civilians freed.

The Kashmir region has been disputed between India and Pakistan for decades. The situation on the ground remains tense as cross-border shelling and skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani troops often occur along the Line of Control (LoC). The neighboring countries accuse each other of starting the hostilities.

India regularly carries out raids in the region to hunt down armed groups in remote areas, clear their camps, and bust weapons caches.

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!