In one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in the Valley in over a decade, at least 45 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed while 25 others sustained major injuries on Thursday in a terror attack. The attack took place on the Srinagar-Anantnag highway near Awantipora.
CRPF spokesperson Sanjay Sharma told Newslaundry they were still ascertaining how many men were lost in the attack. He said: “It was one of the biggest attacks on our jawans in over a decade. I cannot give the exact figure of the death toll as of now. We are still ascertaining the deaths.”
Sharma said the CRPF is ready to handle attacks like this. “We won’t be cowed down by such attacks. We have always worked for the people of this land. Obviously, an inquiry into such a cowardly incident will follow.” An NIA team with suitable forensic components is leaving tomorrow morning for Kashmir to assist the Jammu & Kashmir Police in a forensic evaluation of the spot.
A police official said that at about 3.15 pm, militants rammed a car fitted with explosives into a CRPF bus, triggering an intensive blast. The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the attack. The police have identified the “fidayeen” as Adil Ahmad from Kakapora in Pulwama. He reportedly joined the JeM in 2018.
The list of CRPF personnel in the vehicle in question.
The police issued a press release, calling it a “gruesome terror crime spot at Ladhu Mode Lethpora at about 1515 hours following an explosion by terrorists targeting a security forces’ convoy travelling from Jammu to Srinagar. One vehicle which was part of the convoy carrying CRPF Personnel bore the brunt of the blast resulting in multiple casualties….” The press release added: “Citizens are requested to stay away from the blast site as the blast site needs to be preserved properly for investigators to examine.”
The Union I&B Ministry also issued an advisory for television channels in the wake of the attack.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack, tweeting that the nation “stands shoulder to shoulder” with the families of the victims. He added that he had spoken to top officials about the situation.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who also posted about the attack on Twitter, is likely to visit the state following the killings of the CRPF.
Lt General HS Panag, retired PVSM and AVSM, told Newslaundry it was the “militants’ day” today. He said: “The terrorists have to strike once only while the forces have to be alert always. It was their (terrorists’) day today. In Kashmir, the militants mostly use the explosives made of plastic. Till now, the terrorist organisations in Kashmir didn’t have the expertise. But they can get it easily from across the border.”
Panag said a fourth-generation war is going on in the Valley. “Terrorist organisations like Jaish have the full backing of the neighbouring state. They can easily get the expertise from them.”
IGP Kashmir SP Pani called the attack “gruesome”. He said: “Investigations have been taken up. We have started gathering the sequences of how this happened and the people behind it will be brought before the law. We are ascertaining the chain of circumstances in this incident.”
There has been a drastic increase in local boys joining the militants’ ranks in the state. In 2018, nearly 200 youths joined the militants. Former Jammu & Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah compared the present situation in the state to that of the early 2000s. Mainstream parties—the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and the Congress—also condemned the attack.
Meanwhile, mobile Internet services have been snapped in the whole of south Kashmir while mobile Internet speeds have been reduced in the rest of the Valley. Many political analysts have called today’s attack the biggest ever on security forces in Kashmir. It’s one of the worst in the state since the Uri attack of 2016.
The Jammu Chambers of Commerce and Industries (JCCI) have called for a “peaceful bandh” tomorrow, February 15, to protest the killings. It also called upon citizens to pray for “peace to the departed souls of CRPF jawans martyred in Kashmir”.