Five army personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), and two terrorists were killed in three encounters in different districts of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, officials said.
The soldiers lost their lives in firing by terrorists in a village close to Dera Ki Gali (DKG) in Surankote area of the border district of Poonch after the army and police launched a joint operation following intelligence inputs about the presence of ultras who had infiltrated from across the Line of Control (LoC), they said.
The two militants were killed and a policeman was injured during encounters in Anantnag and Bandipora districts.
"On the intervening night of October 10 and 11, a counter-terrorist operation was launched by Indian Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police in the area of Shahdara, near the boundary of Poonch-Rajouri districts in J&K.
“During the conduct of the operation, terrorists brought down a heavy volume of fire on Army troops leading to fatal injuries to one JCO and four soldiers,” a defence spokesman said in a statement.
He identified soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty as Naib Subedar (JCO) Jaswinder Singh, a recipient of Sena Medal, Naik Mandeep Singh, Sepoys Gajjan Singh, Saraj Singh and Vaisakh H.
“The nation will always remain indebted to our bravehearts for their supreme sacrifice and devotion to duty,” the spokesman said. The officials said there were inputs about the presence of a group of heavily-armed terrorists in Chamrer forest.
The terrorists fired indiscriminately on noticing the movement of the army search party, causing critical injuries to five the jawans who later succumbed to their injuries at a nearby military hospital.
After the initial encounter, the terrorists fled to nearby Bhangai village, which falls in Rajouri district, and contact was established with them, the officials said, adding the operation to neutralise the terrorists was in progress while all possible escape routes have been plugged.
The twin districts of Rajouri and Poonch in the Jammu region have witnessed a rise in infiltration attempts since June this year, resulting in the killing of nine terrorists in separate encounters.
Three soldiers also laid down their lives in the previous operations.
There has been a spurt in terrorist attacks in recent weeks in which several civilians, including a prominent Kashmiri Pandit businessman and a school teacher, were killed.
Earlier, security forces had launched a cordon and search operation at Khagund in Anantnag district's Verinag area following information about the presence of militants there, an official said.
The search operation turned into an encounter after militants opened fire on the security forces, who retaliated, he said.
The police official said that while one militant had been killed, a policeman suffered injuries.
In another encounter, which broke out at Gundjahangir in Bandipora district's Hajin area, a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant was killed.
"Killed terrorist has been identified as Imtiyaz Ahmad Dar affiliated with proscribed terror outfit LeT (TRF).
He was involved in the recent civilian killing at Shahgund Bandipora," Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar tweeted.
Activists of Shiv Sena and Dogra Front held anti-Pakistan protests after the death of five army personnel and burnt an effigy of the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for aiding and abetting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the Congress expressed shock and grief over the killing of five Army personnel and urged the BJP-led government to take effective measures to contain Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in the Union Territory.
J&K Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) president G A Mir and other senior party leaders described the terrorist attack as a "cowardly act" and saluted the bravery of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the nation.
The party, in a statement, expressed serious concern over the rising incidents of terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.
In a statement, senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta said the terrorists behind the killing of five soldiers would soon be hunted down and neutralised.
“India will respond in the language which Pakistan understands well. Every single terrorist who somehow had entered the Indian soil will be eliminated sooner than later as the security forces are already on the job,” he said while conveying his condolences to the families of the slain soldiers.
He said the proxy war which Pakistan has been waging in Kashmir will ruin that country because India will not tolerate any misadventure and will give a befitting reply to every act of mischief.
Gupta said the government would ensure that whosoever will dare to stand against the country will either be neutralised or put behind bars.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given free hand to the army to tackle the issue independently and therefore it is a matter of time when those responsible for this ambush are brought to justice.
(With inputs from PTI)