Explosive-laden vehicle rams into CRPF convoy in Kashmir, 18 jawans killed
A CRPF convoy was attacked by militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Jammu-Srinagar highway.(Waseem Andrabi/HT photo)

Explosive-laden vehicle rams into CRPF convoy in Kashmir, 18 jawans killed

Eighteen CRPF jawans were killed and many others injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast at Lethpora on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.

HT Correspondent
New Delhi/Srinagar

At least 18 Central Reserve Police Force jawans were killed and many others injured in a blast in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday. The blast was triggered by militants to target two vehicles carrying the CRPF jawans. The blast ripped through one of the buses the jawans were travelling in. The death toll is likely to go up.

A Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the bus they were travelling in, news agency PTI reported quoting officials.The bus which came under the main impact of the blast belonged to 76 battalion of the CRPF.

As per commuters list, there were 39 personnel travelling in the bus. The IED blast reduced the bus to a mangled heap of iron and body parts could be seen strewn around the area, the agency reported.

“There were 70 vehicles in the convoy and one of the vehicles came under attack. The convoy was on its way from Jammu to Srinagar,” said CRPF (Operations) Inspector General Zulfiqar Hassan adding that the Jammu and Kashmir police have taken over the investigation into the terror attack.

“There were about 2500 personnel in the convoy,” news agency ANI quoted CRPF Director General RR Bhatnagar as saying on Pulwama attack.

Militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the blast and said it was a fidayeen attack carried out by a local youth. Police identified the terrorist as Adil Ahmad from Kakapora in Pulwama. He joined the Jaish-Mohammed in 2018, PTI quoted officials as saying.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the terror attack on the CRPF convoy. “Attack on CRPF personnel in Pulwama is despicable. I strongly condemn this dastardly attack. 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. May the injured recover quickly,” PM Modi was quoted as saying by ANI.

PM Modi spoke to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other top officials regarding the situation in the wake of the attack in Pulwama, the agency said. Singh, who spoke to Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik and CRPF’s Bhatnagar over Pulwama attack, will be visiting Srinagar on Friday.

Reacting to the terror incident, Congress president Rahul Gandhi termed it a “cowardly attack”. Gandhi wrote on Twitter, “I’m deeply disturbed by the cowardly attack on a #CRPF convoy in J&K in which 10 of our brave men have been martyred and many others wounded. My condolences to the families of our martyrs. I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.”

Union minister Arun Jaitley promised “unforgettable lesson” to the militants for the terror attack. He said, “Attack on CRPF in #Pulwama, J&K is a cowardice & condemnable act of terrorists. Nation salutes martyred soldiers and we all stand united with families of martyrs. We pray for speedy recovery of the injured. Terrorists will be given unforgettable lesson for their heinous act.”

The incident took place at Lethpora, about 30 km from Srinagar on the Jammu-Srinagar highway around 3.15 pm. Jammu and Kashmir police spokesperson has confirmed that it was an improvised explosive device (IED) blast.The explosion was followed by gunshots aimed at the security forces in Pulwama district of the state.

The IED was placed in a vehicle, which was parked on the national highway, guarded by the CRPF, Jammu and Kashmir police and the army. The security forces have begun a search operation.

The news agency, quoting Jammu and Kashmir Raj Bhawan PRO, reported that Governor Malik blamed the Pulwama attack on forces “from across the border.”

“Forces responsible for the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir are desperate and frustrated and just want to prove their presence. Visibly it seems to be guided from across border as Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility,” Mallik said, according to ANI.

Following the terror attack, the Congress mounted its attack on the Narendra Modi government. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala condemned the “cowardly terror attack on our jawans in Pulwama”.

On Twitter, he said, “Our homage to the 18 brave hearts who made the supreme sacrifice and condolences to their family. Uri, Pathankot, Pulwama- the terror list and compromise of National Security by Modi government continues unabated.”

“This is the 18th big terror attack in the last 5 years under this Modi Govt. When will the 56-inch chest reply,” ANI quoted Surjewala as saying.

The Jammu-Srinagar highway incident is the deadliest terror attack on the security forces in the state since militants targeted Uri army camp in September 2016, when 19 soldiers were killed.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah called the attack a “reminiscent” of pre-2004 days in the Valley. “Jaish has claimed the blast as a suicide (fidaeen) attack reminiscent of the dark days of militancy pre-2004-05,” Abdullah wrote on Twitter adding, “I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. My prayers for the injured & condolences to the families of the bereaved.”

PDP chief and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also condemned the terror attack in Pulwama. She said, “No words are enough to condemn the gruesome terror attack. How many more lives will be snuffed out before this madness ends?”

“Extremely shocking news coming from Pulwama (J&K). I strongly condemn the terror attack on CRPF convoy in which many casualties are feared. India must stand united in this moment of grief,” said Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also expressed condolences to the families of the jawans killed in the terror attack. “Saddened that 13 CRPF jawans became martyrs today in Pulwama. We salute our brave jawans and extend our solidarity and condolences to their families. Our prayers for those injured. We wish them a speedy recovery,” reads her post on Twitter.


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