On February 14, at least 41 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were martyred in a suicide attack in the southern part of Kashmir. The worst attack in two decades of Kashmir conflict happened when a suicide bomber’s Scorpio SUV laden with explosives rammed into a CRPF bus killing many. The Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility for the attack and has identified a Kashmir based local rebel as their bomber. Meanwhile, reports claim that the attack was preceded by an intelligence failure.
What happened and how it happened?
On Thursday, the convoy of 78 vehicles with 2,547 CRPF were travelling from Jammu to Srinagar. Most of these paramilitary soldiers were returning from their leave to join duty in Srinagar, said sources. At around 3:30 PM, when the convoy was on the national highway that connects Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar to nearby towns and cities, a bomber car rammed into a bus ferrying over 41 soldiers.
According to the reports, the SUV came from the service road onto the highway that was allowed to be used by the civilians and hit the bus full of troopers. As soon as the SUV hit the bus, a boom sound and the thick smoke almost ceased the entire area.
“A car suddenly came in the middle of the convoy, and there was a huge explosion,” said a CRPF man who was travelling in another vehicle that was part of the convoy. He added, “When we came down, the bus was not there. It had been completely charred, and the bodies were scattered all around,” reported The Indian Express.
The second bus was also hit in the attack; however, no casualty took place. Reports claim that till now at least 41 CRPF personnel martyred and most likely the figures would go up as many jawans are in critical condition.
The preliminary investigations the SUV had more than 350 kg of high-grade explosives. It also said that the explosion was so massive that after the blast the two vehicles were reduced to just metal debris.
“I felt everything shaking for a moment, and then there was smoke. I felt my body was moving and the earth beneath my feet was opening up. It was a very powerful explosion,” the 45-year-old resident, who refused to be identified, told Al Jazeera.
After the news reached the authority, the roads were blocked, and local people and media were barred from entering the area. Internet services in the area were also suspended
Who has taken responsibility?
The senior police officials say that this is the worst attack in 20 years. Soon after the attack Pakistan-based terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), while talking to a Pakistani local news agency claimed responsibility for the attack.
They have identified 22-year-old Adil Dar, from Pulwama in southern Kashmir as the attacker. They also released a video in which the alleged attacker, Dar is seen saying, “By the time this video reaches you, I will be in heaven … This is my last message for the people of Kashmir.”
Dar was a school dropout who had reportedly joined the terrorist group in March last year, said, officials.
As per the police records obtained by Al Jazeera, Dar used to work in a bandsaw workshop, where he used to make wooden boxes. He is described as “not [an] orthodox” Muslim, who did not “offer prayers regularly”.
The record said that last year on March 19, he went missing after he left his house for work. At that time his family had complained with the police on March 23, 2018.
According to the police, Dar had joined militancy after he left his home. While talking to the publication Dar’s father, Ghulam Hassan Dar, said that he had last seen his son when he had picked up a gun.
“In this war, people from both sides die. This politics is being played by leaders. Everyone should rather ask the question why the youth are picking up guns, and that should be addressed,” said Dar’s father.
Failure of Intelligence
While condemning the incident many are also calling it a result of the failure of intelligence. According to the News18, a few days back, Jammu and Kashmir police had shared an intelligence input with all security agencies alerting them of something of this nature to happen.
The police had shared a video that was uploaded online on a private Twitter account. The clip showed a 33-second video of troops in Somalia being attacked by militants in a similar matter. It also carried a threat of suicide attack saying, “InshaAllah… its will same in Kashmir…endian are flying in parts…InshaAllah (sic).” The Twitter handle “313_get” from which the video was posted is not open for public viewing.
The officials were alerted about it in a meeting held two days back. Following this, all security agencies were also alerted about a possible terror attack similar to that carried in the Twitter handle.
According to the officials, all precautions were taken to prevent any attack including clearing up of the convoy’s route. However, allowing a civilian to use a stretch on the Jammu-Srinagar highway turned out to be a tragedy.
Calling the attack failure on the part of the intelligence the Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik said that attack was partly the result of an intelligence failure. He added that especially due to the fact that security forces could not detect the loading and movement of the explosive-laden Scorpio. “We must accept that we are at fault also,” he told Indian Express.
Condemnation of the attack
Prime Minister Narendra Modi while condemning the attack said, “Attack on CRPF personnel in Pulwama is despicable.”
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.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 14, 2019
United Nation secretary general Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the militant attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district and called for those behind the attack to be brought to justice.
“We strongly condemn today’s attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district and express our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and to the Government and people of India,” said Guterres’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
The opposition also condemned the attack.
Asserting that no force can divide or break the country, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that the entire opposition will stand with the government "in its actions" in the wake of Pulwama terror attack
— ANI Digital (@ani_digital) February 15, 2019
Extremely shocking news coming from Pulwama (J&K). I strongly condemn the terror attack on CRPF convoy in which many casualties are feared. India must stand united in this moment of grief
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 14, 2019
The nation will not forget the supreme sacrifice of our brave @crpfindia jawans. Paid my last respects to the martyrs of Pulwama in Srinagar today. Their sacrifice will not go in vain. pic.twitter.com/uJKUoFmKev
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) February 15, 2019
The Most Favoured Nation status given to Pakistan stands withdrawn. #Pulwama
— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) February 15, 2019