Suicide car bombing returned to the Kashmir Valley after 18 years on Thursday, when a vehicle loaded with explosives rammed into a CRPF bus near Pulwama . While there were 2,547 CRPF personnel in the 78-vehicle convoy, the bus that bore the direct impact of the explosion was transporting 37 troops.
Officials said they were struggling to count the dead as the bodies had been mutilated beyond recognition by the explosion.
In 2001, at least 38 people were killed when a car full of explosives drove into the J&K legislative Assembly complex. That attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
Thursday’s incident, in which 37 personnel were killed, was also claimed by the JeM.
K. Vijay Kumar, advisor to J&K Governor Satyapal Malik, told The Hindu that while this was not the first time such an attack had taken place in the Kashmir Valley, it had happened after “a gap.”
According to a senior Home Ministry official, the explosives-laden car had been driving beside the convoy and after moving ahead of it had suddenly turned back and rammed into one of the buses.
Mr. Kumar said more than 2,500 personnel had been travelling together as the roads had been blocked for many days due to snowfall and subsequent pile-up of traffic. “Due to snow and lot of blockade, the movement of vehicles was barred on the road leading to Srinagar. The convoy was coming from Jammu and the road opening party [which sanitises the route] was in place,” he said.
On reports that the suicide bomber’s car had been laden with RDX, Mr. Kumar said an expert team would reach the site of the attack on Friday to ascertain the nature of explosives used in the terror attack.
A National Investigation Agency (NIA) team, with a suitable forensic component, would also be leaving on Friday to assist the J&K police in forensic evaluation of the scene of crime.
JeM released a video claiming credit for the attack. They identified the attacker as Adil Ahmed Dar, a resident of Kakapora in Pulwama, who joined the outfit last year. In the video, Dar, who was seen sitting with sophisticated weapons in front of a backdrop of a black and white flag, was heard saying that by the time the video was released, he would be in heaven. JeM, headed by Masood Azhar, is backed by Pakistan.
Last year, 614 terrorist-related incidents were reported in J&K, the highest in the past six years. A total of 91 security personnel were killed in these incidents.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted, “today’s dastardly attack on CRPF in Pulwama (J&K) is extremely painful and disturbing. I bow to each and every CRPF jawan who has sacrificed his life in service to the nation. I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.”