At least 44 paramilitary CRPF personnel were killed and several injured when a Jaish fidayeen rammed his explosive laden vehicle into a CRPF convoy along Srinagar-Jammu highway at Lethpora area in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Thursday.
At around 3: 15 pm, the blast ripped through a CRPF bus which was part of a convoy coming from Jammu towards Srinagar.
A local militant identified as Adil Ahmad of Kakapora rammed explosive-laden vehicle into a bus belonging to CRPF’s 54 battalion, reports said.
Adil had joined militancy in March 2018.
Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) claimed responsibility of the fidayeen attack and also released video of the militant, who carried out the suicide bombing.
The 44-seater bus was reduced to a mangled iron heap due to impact of the blast.
It was part of convoy comprising around 70 vehicles.
The blast was felt kilometres away from the actual spot at Ladhu Mode, Lethpora where body parts were scattered.
Body parts could be seen strewn around the area.
“At least 44 CRPF men were killed in the attack,” agencies reported.
Police spokesman, however, confirmed 33 fatal casualties.
He said the exact number of casualties was being ascertained.
“The injured were shifted to different hospitals including army hospital in Srinagar for specialised treatment.
CRPF’s Srinagar-based spokesperson Sanjay Sharma told Rising Kashmir that they were ascertaining the exact damage caused in the blast.
“It was a car-based very powerful blast which damaged the bus,” he said.
“We are still finding out the exact casualties. We are not able to quantity because the situation is extremely bad,” he said.
Eyewitnesses said the blast caused damage to two other CRPF vehicles.
After blast, traffic on highway through Awantipora was suspended for some time and police, CRPF and army men launched cordon and search operation in the area.
Inspector General of Police Kashmir, Swayam Prakash Pani termed the attack as “gruesome” and an act of “desperation” on part of militants.
“We are investigating it. The causalities are high. It is an act of desperation which is reflected. Only one vehicle was hit. Whether the explosive was planted there or was it in a car, all these things are to be seen in the investigation,” he said.
Whether the car rammed into the bus, he said “it can’t be substantiated as of now and it is a part of investigation.
“Those who are behind this incident will be brought before the law,” he added.
The attack is the first of kind in 2019 and deadliest in past many years in the state.
A road opening party was deployed and the convoy had armoured counter-terror vehicles, officials said.
Forensic and bomb analysis teams are on the spot.
The bus that was the focus of the attack belongs to the 76th battalion of the force and had 39 personnel on board, officials said.
CRPF Inspector General (Operations) in the Kashmir Valley Zulfiqar Hasan described it as a “vehicle-bound attack” and said Jammu and Kashmir Police has taken up the investigation.