Srinagar/New Delhi, Jan 27 (IANS) An army officer – who was awarded a gallantry medal on Republic Day – and a policeman were killed in a gunfight Tuesday in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, police said. Two Hizbul Mujahideen guerrillas were also killed in the gun battle.

Col. Munindra Nath Rai of 9 Gorkha Rifles, seconded to the Rashtriya Rifles, was awarded a Yudh Seva Medal Monday, the army said in a statement in New Delhi.

According to army officials, Col. Rai was commanding his battalion in intense counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir.

On receipt of specific information about the presence of two guerrillas in Tral, he swiftly planned and executed an operation to eliminate them. The two included the ‘district commander’ of Hizbul Mujahideen, the army said.

“Leading from the front, Col. M.N. Rai displayed extreme courage and leadership so as to ensure the elimination of the terrorists but unfortunately made the supreme sacrifice while doing so,” the statement said.

“In the same operation, one head constable of Jammu and Kashmir Police also died,” the statement said, adding that a soldier was injured and was in a critical state.

A police officer told IANS in Srinagar that the gunfight ensued when personnel of the army’s 42 Rashtriya Rifles, police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) launched a joint operation in Handoora forest area near Tral town following information about the presence of militants.

When the militants were surrounded and challenged to lay down their weapons, they fired at the security personnel that resulted in injuries to Col. Rai, the commanding officer of the Rashtriya Rifles battalion, and a head constable of police, he said.

The injured men were evacuated and taken to a hospital, where Col. Rai succumbed to his injuries, hospital officials said.

The security forces continued to retaliate the militants’ fire, that led to the death of two militants — identified as Firdous Ahmed and Shiraz Ahmad of Hizbul Mujahideen.

Both the slain militants were locals, the police officer said.