A suicide bomber rammed a car into a bus carrying Indian policemen in Held Kashmir on Thursday, killing 44 of them in the deadliest attack in decades on security forces in the disputed region.
The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack on a convoy of the Central Reserve Police Force on Jammu and Kashmir’s main highway, local GNS news agency said.
The explosion was heard from several miles away, according to witnesses. “An IED went off as a CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) convoy passed by,” senior police officer Munir Ahmed Khan said.
Mohammad Yunis, a journalist who reached the site minutes later, said he saw blood and body parts scattered along a 100-metre stretch of the highway. Television images showed a mangled car amid rubble and snow around the site. Photos showed tens of policemen surveying damaged vehicles and one policeman was seen carrying a plastic cover with guns inside.
Kashmir’s Police Chief SP Pani said the CRPF had suffered major damage. “It is a terror incident and we are looking into the possibility of what led to the blast. We are going to go for post blast investigation,” he said earlier.
A video circulating on social media on Thursday featured the alleged suicide bomber, and showed a young man holding a gun and threatening more attacks. The authenticity of the video could not be verified independently.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that the latest attack was ‘despicable’. “I strongly condemn this dastardly attack. The sacrifices of our brave security personnel shall not go in vain. The entire nation stands shoulder to shoulder with the families of the brave martyrs,” he said.
Randeep Singh Surjewala, a spokesman for the main opposition Congress party, accused Modi of compromising on security. “Zero political action & Zero policy to tackle terror has led to an alarming security situation,” Surjewala said in one of a series of tweets.
Kanwal Sibal, a former top diplomat, said a diplomatic response from India would not be enough. “They will have to do something otherwise I think it will be very difficult for government to absorb this blow and be seen to be doing nothing,” Sibal said.
The United States ambassador to India condemned the attack and offered condolences. “The United States stands alongside India in confronting terror and defeating it,” Ambassador Ken Juster said in a tweet.
It is the deadliest attack on Indian forces in occupied part of Kashmir since September 2016 when 19 soldiers were killed in a pre-dawn raid by Kashmiri fighters on the Uri army camp. India has an estimated 500,000 soldiers in the occupied valley.
Kashmiris have been fighting for an independent Kashmir, or a merger with Pakistan, since 1989. New Delhi accuses Pakistan of fuelling the uprising that has left tens of thousands of civilians dead. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it only provides diplomatic support to Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.
Published in Today’s Muslim, February 15th 2019.