Death toll in Indian-controlled Kashmir attack rises to 40

Li Jiayao

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The death toll of a suicide attack targeting paramilitary troopers belonging to Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in restive Indian-controlled Kashmir on Thursday has risen to 40, officials said.

Many others are reported to be wounded in the attack.

The car bomb attack was carried out at 3:15 p.m. local time on a national highway near Lethpora village in Pulwama district, about 27 km south of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.

"We are being told a total of 40 CRPF men were killed in today's car bomb attack that occurred at Lethpora," a local government official said. "Many other personnel who were wounded have been hospitalised."

According to police officials, a vehicle laden with around 350 kg of explosives hit a CRPF convoy by ramming into a bus and blowing itself up.

Images from the spot showed blood spilled on road, body parts strewn, glass shreds from wind shields scattered along with baggage on road.

Officials said the Srinagar bound convoy was coming from Jammu and had over 65 vehicles in it.

Security analysts said the attack is the deadliest in the history of Kashmir militancy since 1989.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying a fidayeen (suicide bomber) carried out a car bomb blast to target the convoy.

"A JeM spokesperson Muhammad Hassan in a statement said many forces vehicles were destroyed in the attack," local newsgathering agency GNS said. "The spokesperson identified the fidayeen as Aadil Ahmad alias Waqas Commando of Gundi Bagh, Pulwama."

Eyewitnesses said smoke was billowing from the mangled vehicle and people ran for cover following the blast.

Immediately after the attack contingents of police, paramilitary and fire tenders reached to the spot to carry out rescue work.

"The wounded are undergoing treatment at an army hospital in Srinagar," Inspector General of CRPF Zulfiqar Hassan told the media. "We are carrying out post-blast analysis at the spot."

Officials said the death toll was likely to rise.

"There is apprehension that the death toll may go up because of the critical condition of many among the wounded," a police official said.

Officials said Indian home minister Rajnath Singh has cancelled his visit to Bihar and is scheduled to visit the region on Friday.

Reports said a team of India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) would arrive at the blast site on Friday to help investigate the blast.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condemned the attack on paramilitary.

"Attack on CRPF personnel in Pulwama is despicable. 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. May the injured recover quickly," Modi tweeted.

Militant groups opposing New Delhi's rule are engaged in a guerrilla war with Indian troops in the region since 1989. Gunfight between the two sides takes place intermittently.

Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan, is claimed by both in full. Since their independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.

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