At least 44 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed and scores injured when a car laden with explosives rammed into a CRPF bus—part of a massive convoy—in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, in one of the deadliest terror attacks yet on government forces in the border state.
The bus was carrying 51 CRPF personnel when a Mahindra Scorpio, packed with 300kg of explosives and driven by a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) suicide bomber, rammed into it in the town of Awantipora in south Kashmir.
“In Latoomode, Awantipora, an IED blast occurred on a bus of the 54 battalion of the CRPF. There are some reports of grenade lobbing and firing upon the vehicles of 35 battalion and 179 battalion coming in as well,” CRPF in New Delhi said in a statement.
Although intelligence agencies had warned of a possible terror strike by JeM, ground-level officials said Thursday’s attack was “unprecedented and beyond what we could imagine”.
“There was a vehicle—either it was parked on the side or driving along the convoy. It was a suicide attack, because the driver rammed the vehicle which triggered the blast. IED (improvised explosive device) jammers are not foolproof so they could not thwart the blast. Chances of a getaway are very high for terrorists and casualties are minimal on their side. But this shows that the expertise of creating IEDs is back in J&K and explosive materials have found their way into Kashmir from Pakistan or are locally developed,” a senior intelligence official said, putting the death toll at 44 and those injured at 70. The death toll could rise, the official said.
“Attack on CRPF personnel in Pulwama is 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. May the injured recover quickly,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
“Terrorists in future will rely on indirect attacks or suicide bombers where damage is maximum and casualties among terrorists are minimum. Such tactics have not been used earlier because it very difficult to bring explosives from across and people trained to make IEDs had been killed by forces during 2004-05. Now the expertise has been resurrected and explosives have been brought in. So we need to be extremely cautious,” said Lt. Gen (retd) H.S. Panag, a defence expert.
“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,” tweeted the Congress President, Rahul Gandhi.
Former Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah reacted to the “terrible news”. “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,” Abdullah said in a tweet.