Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said the “valour and sacrifice” of the five security personnel killed in an encounter with militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Handwara town will never be forgotten.

“Tributes to our courageous soldiers and security personnel martyred in Handwara,” he tweeted. “Their valour and sacrifice will never be forgotten. They served the nation with utmost dedication and worked tirelessly to protect our citizens. Condolences to their families and friends.”

Five security personnel – an Army colonel, a major, two Army officers and a police sub inspector – were killed during an 18-hour anti-militancy operation. The Army said that the operation was launched after the intelligence inputs were received that terrorists were taking civilian inmates of a house in Changimul village hostage. Two terrorists were also killed during the operation.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police identified the deceased jawans as Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj, Sub Inspector Sageer Ahmad Qazi, Lance Naik Dinesh and Naik Rajesh.

Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat said the operations in Handwara highlight the determination of the forces to protect the lives of people of India.

Earlier in the day, several political leaders also offered their condolences after the deaths of the security personnel.

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the deaths of the soldiers was “deeply disturbing and painful”. “They showed exemplary courage in their fight against the terrorists and made supreme sacrifice while serving the country,” he tweeted. “We will never forget their bravery and sacrifice.”

Bharatiya Janata Party President JP Nadda also condoled the death of security personnel. “Received the sad news of our soldiers making the supreme sacrifice in an encounter with terrorists in Handwara in Jammu and Kashmir,” he tweeted. “I bow to the martyrs and pray for peace to their souls. May God give their grieving families the strength to bear the loss.”

The Congress party issued a statement expressing deep sorrow over the deaths of the jawans. “The incident in Handwara is a stark reminder of the incredible sacrifice our defence forces make in order to keep our Nation safe,” it tweeted. “Jai Hind.”

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced a government job and Rs 10 lakh compensation for family of the soldier from his state Naik Rajesh who was a part of the Handwara operation. “My deep condolences to the family of NK Rajesh Kumar, 21 RR, from village Rajrana, district Mansa, who laid down his life for the nation while fighting militants in Handwara,” he tweeted. “A government job and Rs 10 lakh as ex-gratia will be given as a mark of respect to the next of kin.”

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “Sorry to hear about the army and police officers and the jawan who laid down their lives in the line of duty in Handwara this morning. May their souls rest in peace and may their families and colleagues find strength at this difficult time.”

Meanwhile, BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said that government will give a befitting response to this “cowardly incident”.