SRINAGAR: At least 40 CRPF personnel were killed in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on Thursday when a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the bus they were travelling in, one of the worst terror strikes in the state in recent years, officials said.
More than 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force personnel, many of them returning from leave to rejoin duty in the Valley, were travelling in the convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Latoomode in Awantipora.
Police said the terrorist driving the suicide vehicle was Adil Ahmad from Kakapora in Pulwama who joined the JeM in 2018.
The casualties are likely to go up.
The terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack that took place about 30 km from Srinagar, they said.
Over 20 people were injured in the terror attack, which reduced the bus to a mangled heap of iron. Body parts could be seen strewn around the area.
"It was a large convoy and about 2,500 personnel were travelling in multiple vehicles. Some shots were also fired at the convoy," CRPF DG R R Bhatnagar told PTI.
National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval is monitoring the situation in Kashmir, said sources. Senior CRPF officials are also briefing him about the developments.
The convoy started from Jammu around 3.30 am and was supposed to reach Srinagar before sunset, officials said.
The number of personnel travelling back to the Valley was high as there was no movement on the highway for the last two to three days because of bad weather and other administrative reasons, they said.
Usually, about 1,000 personnel are part of a convoy. 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 54th battalion of the force and had 44 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.
"Governor Satyapal Malik observed forces responsible for the insurgency in J&K are desperate & frustrated and just want to prove presence. Visibly it seems to be guided from across the border as Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility," said J&K Raj Bhawan PRO on the terror attack.
Rajnath, who will visit Srinagar on Friday, has also spoken to Satyapal Malik. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has already spoken to DG CRPF RR Bhatnagar over the terror attack.
"Senior officers at the spot, the investigation is underway. Injured being taken care of. There were 2500 personnel in the convoy," said Bhatnagar.
Condemning the attack, Union Minister Arun Jaitley said, "attack on CRPF in Pulawama is cowardice & a condemnable act of terrorists. Nation salutes martyrs&we stand united with families of martyrs. We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured. Terrorists will be given an unforgettable lesson for their heinous act."
In the attack on the Uri military base in September 2016, JeM militants killed 18 Army jawans and injured dozens of others.
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(With ANI Inputs)