At least 44 CRPF personnel were killed on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. The incident took place when a Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into a bus carrying CRPF jawans in Pulwama district that also left many critically wounded, officials said.
More than 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force personnel, many of them returning from leave to rejoin duty in the Valley, were travelling in the convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Latoomode in Awantipora in south Kashmir around 3.15 pm.
The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack that took place about 20 km from Srinagar, officials said.
Police identified the suicide bomber as Adil Ahmed, who officials said joined the Jaish in 2018. He was driving a vehicle packed with over 100 kg of explosives on the wrong side of the road and hit the bus, in which 39-44 personnel were travelling, head-on, an official at the spot said.
"There are no survivors from the bus," he said, adding that they were yet to ascertain exactly how many people were on the bus. According to other reports there were at least 42 people on the bus.
JeM claimed the terrorist drove the SUV carrying 350 kg of explosives. However, army and other security agencies disputed the claim and said it was a mere propaganda. The powerful explosion, which reduced the bus to a mangled heap of iron, was heard many kilometres away, including in some parts of Srinagar adjoining Pulwama district.
"The bodies are dismembered and mutilated making it difficult for doctors to give the exact number of casualties," a senior security establishment official said in Delhi.
The bus that was the focus of the attack belongs to the 76th battalion of the force. "It was a large convoy and about 2,500 personnel were travelling in multiple vehicles. Some shots were also fired at the convoy," CRPF DG R R Bhatnagar told PTI.
The convoy had started from Jammu around 3.30 am and was supposed to reach Srinagar before sunset, officials said. The number of personnel travelling back to the Valley was high as there was no movement on the highway for the last two to three days because of bad weather and other administrative reasons, they said. Usually, about 1,000 personnel are part of a convoy but this time it was a total of 2,547 personnel. A road opening party was deployed and the convoy had armoured counter-terror vehicles, officials said.
Here are things unfolded on Thursday after the attack:
India's Ministry of External Affairs has condemned the attack on CRPF convoy in Pulwama that resulted in death of dozens of security personnel. MEA named Jaish-e-Mohamed as the perpetrator of the attack and accused Pakistan of giving "full freedom" to the organisation. It also urged members of the international community to support the proposal to list terrorists, including JeM Chief Masood Azhar, as a designated terrorist under UN Security Council. China has repeatedly blocked the move to list Azhar in the list. (READ FULL STORY)
The attack was carried out by Pakistan backed Jaish-e-Mohammed. A strong reply will be given and I assure the people of the country this. The country pays tribute to the brave jawans who were martyred: Rajnath Singh
President Ram Nath Kovind: "Strongly condemn the terrorist attack in Pulwama, J&K. Thoughts and prayers with the families of martyrs and wishing an early recovery to those injured. The entire nation stands united in the fight against the forces of terror and evil"
The Union I&B Ministry has issued an advisory for television channels in wake of Pulwama attack.
US Mission in India strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack in J&K. We send our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. The United States stands alongside India in confronting terror and defeating it: US Envoy to India Kenneth Juster
An NIA team with suitable forensic component is leaving tomorrow morning for Kashmir to assist the Jammu & Kashmir Police in forensic evaluation of the spot.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is monitoring the situation in Kashmir post Pulwama Attack. According to ANI, senior CRPF officials are briefing him on the situation.
"Attack on CRPF in Pulwama is cowardice and condemnable act of terrorists. Nation salutes martyrs and we stand united with families of martyrs. We pray for speedy recovery of the injured. Terrorists will be givan en unforgettable lesson for their heinous act," said Arun Jaitley.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Srinagar on Friday. He has also spoken to J&K Governor Satyapal Malik over the incident.
"I don't have enough words to condemn this attack. Border skirmishes and surgical strikes are leading to nothing. NDA Govt and all political parties must come together and reach a solution to end this bloodshed," Mehbooba Mufti.
Congress, on the other hand, used the incident to target the Modi government. Randeep Surjewala, said, "We strongly condemn this cowardly attack, we extend condolences to the kin of the jawans who were martyred. This is the 18th big terror attack in the last 5 years under this Modi Govt. When will the 56-inch chest reply?"
It is the biggest IED attack in the state where armed insurgency supported by Pakistan started in the late 1980s.
Officials say the casualties are likely to go up as some of the injured CRPF personnel are critical. All the injured personnel have been admitted to Army Base Hospital in Srinagar which is almost 30 kilometres from the blast site. More security forces have been rushed to the area and the spot where the convoy was hit has been cordoned off by the soldiers.
The convoy of 70 buses was carrying soldiers of CRPF 54 Battalion and the blast was so powerful that the bus was completely mangled and bodies of several troopers were blown to pieces. Some reports also claim that another group of terrorists then opened fire on the convoy.
Meanwhile, in a similar incident that happened on Wednesday at least 12 students were injured after an explosion took place inside a private school at Narbal village of Kakapora area (Jammu and Kashmir) on Wednesday afternoon. The incident left 12 students of class 10 injured.