At least 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans were killed on Thursday when militants targeted their convoy in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district, according to several media reports.
ANI reported that an improvised explosive device (IED) blast was followed by gunshots in Goripora area of Awantipora. More than 2,500 CRPF 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. The bus that was the focus of the attack belongs to the 76th battalion of the force and had 39 personnel on board.
— ANI (@ANI) February 14, 2019
CNN-News18 reported that the IED was planted in a vehicle which rammed the 55-seater CRPF bus. CRPF officials told reporters that the Jammu and Kashmir Police has taken up the investigation and giving out the exact death toll "at this stage is not possible". "We're doing the post-blast investigation to understand the circumstances. We're now clearing the site. All injured have been shifted to the hospital," they said.
Militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the suicide attack. JeM spokesperson Muhammad Hassan told local media that the attacker was a local militant, Aadil Ahmad alias Waqas Commando.
Over 20 people were injured in the terror attack, which reduced the bus to a mangled heap of iron. Several other buses were damaged in the attack. Body parts could be seen strewn around the area.
"Shocked by the dastardly terrorist attack in which CRPF personnel were martyred. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved families and prayers for speedy recovery of the injured," Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu said in a tweet. Several political leaders like former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah and Congress president Rahul Gandhi also took to Twitter to condemn the attack.
Disturbing news coming in from #awantipura . Twelve of our security personnel have been martyred and several have been injured. No words are enough to condemn the gruesome terror attack. How many more lives will be snuffed out before this madness ends?
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) February 14, 2019
Terrible news coming from the valley. A number of CRPF soldiers are reported to have been killed & injured in an IED blast. I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. My prayers for the injured & condolences to the families of the bereaved. #Kashmir — Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 14, 2019
I’m deeply disturbed by the cowardly attack on a #CRPF convoy in J&K in which many of our brave CRPF men have been martyred and a large number wounded, some critically. My condolences to the families of our martyrs. I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 14, 2019
Mufti urged the NDA government and all parties to "reach a solution to end this bloodshed". "Border skirmishes and surgical strikes are leading to nothing," she told ANI.
Former Indian Army chief General VK Singh said, "As a soldier and a citizen of India, my blood boils at the spineless and cowardly attacks. 18 brave hearts from the CRPF laid down their lives in Pulwama. I salute their selfless sacrifice and promise that every drop of our soldier’s blood will be avenged."
Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to CRPF director-general RR Bhatnagar, Governor Satyapal Malik and home secretary over the attack. Rajnath, who was supposed to visit Patna on Friday, has cancelled his trip and will go to Srinagar on Friday. The Ministry of Home Affairs said that it is closely monitoring the situation.
The Cabinet Committee on Security will meet at 9.15 am on Friday. A National Investigation Agency (NIA) team with forensic experts is being sent to Srinagar on Friday to assist the police in forensic evaluation of the scene of crime, a home ministry official was quoted as saying by PTI. Explosive specialists of the Black Cat commando force National Security Guard will also join in the investigation into the attack.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Feb 14, 2019 22:34:56 IST