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Suicide car bomber kills 30 CRPF officers in Kashmir

Indian soldiers examine the debris after an explosion in Lethpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Younis Khaliq

SRINAGAR – A suicide car bomber rammed a bus carrying Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers in Kashmir on Thursday, killing 30 of them in a major attack on security forces in the disputed region that could raise tensions with Pakistan.

The Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack on a CRPF convoy on Jammu and Kashmir’s main highway, a local news agency said.

Kashmir is a Muslim-majority region at the heart of decades of hostility between India and Pakistan, which both claim the entire territory as theirs while ruling part of it.

India accuses Pakistan of giving material support to the militants. Islamabad says it only offers moral and diplomatic support to Muslim Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination.

Indian forces have sporadically battled Islamist militants in mountainous Kashmir since an armed revolt in 1989 in which tens of thousands were killed, but car bombings are rare.

“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,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.

The last major attack was in 2016 when militants raided an Indian army camp in Uri that killed 20 soldiers. Tension with Pakistan rose after New Delhi said the attackers had come from Pakistan to stage the attack.

Pakistan denied any involvement.

Thursday’s explosion was heard from several miles away, according to witnesses. Mohammad Yunis, a journalist who reached the site minutes later, told Reuters he saw blood and body parts scattered along a 100-metre stretch of the highway.

A Jaish-e-Mohammad spokesman, in a statement carried by GNS new agency, said dozens of security force vehicles were destroyed in the attack.

Jaish-e-Mohammad, one of the most powerful militant groups operating in Kashmir, was blamed for a 2001 attack on the parliament that led to India deploying its military on the border with Pakistan.

On Wednesday, an explosion at a school in Kashmir wounded a dozen students. The cause of the blast remains unclear.



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