Armoured vehicles remained stationed outside the 110 Battalion Headquarters of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The CRPF men peered from the watch towers and policemen patrolled the road outside the camp. A few blocks away, the charred remains of the bus which was carrying the CRPF personnel to Srinagar remained scattered on the road, which was blocked for traffic by the security forces. Gun-wielding personnel patrolled on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway. Vehicular movement was thin and markets remained shut.
A day after militant Adil Ahmad Dar blew up an explosive-laden car by driving it into a bus of CRPF personnel which was moving from Qazigund to Srinagar, security seemed to have been stepped up on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway. Security personnel could be seen maintaining a vigil, and blockades on the highway were visible at many places.
The suicide attack came more than a year after militants struck at a nearby CRPF training centre by launching a midnight assault. In the attack on 31 December, 2017, five CRPF personnel had died, while two JeM militants were also killed in retaliatory action. Local residents said that the CRPF training centre was barely a few kilometres away from the blast site.
Noor Ahmad, a resident of Astanpora area of Lethpora, which lies close to the blast site, said that he was sitting at home when he heard a loud explosion. “It was a huge explosion. So heavy was its impact that the window panes of some of the houses were broken,” he said.
Near the blast site, while the vehicle which was driven by Dar was blown to pieces, what remained of the CRPF bus was a mangled heap. After the blast, the shopkeepers downed shutters and ran home.
Javid Ahmad Wani, a student, said that he came across a long convoy of vehicles and after the blast, the forces fired gunshots in the air. “It was a long line of vehicles. Some of them stopped after the attack and drove back to one of their camps in a nearby area. Traffic on the highway was stopped for at least three-and-a-half hours and was resumed in the evening,” he said.
While the magnitude of the loss has baffled the forces, the ease with which the militant drove his vehicle into the CRPF bus has also baffled many security officials. It is important to note that militants have struck twice in one year in Lethpora. Further, it is also significant that security forces often use the Jammu-Srinagar highway to ferry supplies to different camps in Kashmir.
Officials said that Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik has taken strong note of the incident and a “joint security review meeting" is slated to be held shortly to ensure that such attacks are not repeated on the highway.
Meanwhile, residents of Lethpora said that they had shut down shops after the attack as they were scared. However, some also said that they observed the shutdown “to pay homage to the militant who was killed.”
Farooq Ahmad Dar, a resident, said, “We shut down shops just to pay respects to the militant who laid down his life.”
The separatist conglomerate, the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), in its reaction over the Pulwama incident, said, “The delay in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, the denial to engage with the sentiments and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and instead, the use of a muscular military approach to counter an essentially political and human problem, is wreaking havoc in Kashmir, especially on the next generation and consuming them. Those who are here to execute this policy are also under stress and paying a price with their lives.”
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Updated Date: Feb 15, 2019 21:27:13 IST