SRINAGAR: Pakistan on Thursday strongly rejected allegations by sections of Indian government and media linking the suicide attack in occupied Kashmir –which killed at least 44 Indian security personnel – linking the attack to Islamabad.
“We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations,” the Foreign Office (FO) said in a statement.
A suicide car bomber rammed a bus carrying troopers belonging to Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the deadliest attack on Indian occupying forces there since 2002.
The suicide bombing outside Srinagar, reportedly claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group, saw explosives packed inside a van rip through buses in a convoy of 78 vehicles, carrying some 2,500 members of the paramilitary force.
Two buses, with 35 people each, bore the brunt of the massive blast, heard miles away, around 20 kilometres from the city of Srinagar on the main highway to Jammu. The death toll stood at 44, a senior police official said.
The bombing was carried out at 3:15 pm local time on a national highway near Lethpora village in Pulwama district. Dozens of others are reported to be wounded in the attack, who “have been removed to army hospital” CRPF Inspector General Zulfiqar Hassan told the media.
The convoy was bringing the troopers back from leave to rejoin active service. It was unclear whether the van containing the explosives was driven into the convoy or whether it was detonated when the buses were adjacent.
“It was a powerful explosion. The explosive was car-borne,” CRPF spokesman Sanjay Kumar told AFP. PTI reported that some of the bodies were so badly blown up that officials feel it might take some time to identity them. Other reports suggested that there were 350 kilos of explosives used.
Local media reported that the JeM claimed responsibility. A spokesman for the group told a local news agency that the “suicide attack” was carried out by Aadil Ahmad, alias Waqas Commando, a known freedom fighter from the area.
After the attack, hundreds of government forces cordoned around 15 villages in the district the bomber came from and started searching house-to-house, a police officer and witnesses said.
Hours after the attack, India pointed fingers at Pakistan. “We demand that Pakistan stop supporting terrorists and terror groups operating from their territory and dismantle the infrastructure operated by terrorist outfits to launch attacks in other countries,” the ministry said in a statement.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack in a tweet. “I strongly condemn this dastardly attack. The entire nation stands shoulder to shoulder with the families of the brave martyrs,” he wrote.
The US ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, also tweeted that Washington “strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack in Jammu & Kashmir. We send our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims”.