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.

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