Around 3:15 pm on Thursday, a fidayeen (suicidal) attack was executed when a vehicle, carrying a heavy amount of explosives, blew up in between the vehicles of the CRPF, that was part of a convoy, on Jammu-Srinagar national highway. The attack took the lives of at least 44 paramilitary personnel in Lethpora area of South Kashmir’s Awantipora, Pulwama district, and has jolted the security agencies in Kashmir — and New Delhi — simultaneously, highlighting the high-intensity security lapse.
Since 2001 Jammu and Kashmir legislative car-bombing attack, this is the first time a fidayeen car-blast, with such high casualty has taken place in the Valley. Jaish-e-Mohammad while claiming the responsibility of the attack said it was carried out by Adil Ahmad Dar, alias Waqaas, a resident of Gundibagh, Pulwama, who was a dropout from school and was working as a mason before joining ranks in 2016. He also used to lead prayers in the local mosque and has outlived two brothers.
The attack took place when a CRPF convoy was traveling on a high-security Jammu-Srinagar National Highway as per their normal routine. When they reached near the Lethpora area of Awantipora, Mr. Dar-led vehicle, reportedly a Scorpio car, carrying 350 kg of explosives rammed a CRPF vehicle which eventually claimed lives of at least 44 CRPF personnel. The vehicle under attack was carrying 44 CRPF men belonging to 92, 17 and 54 battalions.
Commenting on the issue, the spokesperson of Indian National Congress, Randeep Singh Surjewala said on Thursday that the attack on CRPF convoy happened because of a “compromise on national security by the Modi-led BJP government”. Condemning the attack, Mr. Surjewala Tweeted, “Uri, Pathankot, Pulwama- the terror list and compromise of National Security by Modi Govt continues unabated.”
Notably, the attack happened ten days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Though he was welcomed in the Valley with a strict shutdown, Mr. Modi also claimed to “break the backbone of terrorism in the state.”
According to news agency ANI, gunshots and grenades were also reported from the scene following the blast. Soon, the injured troopers were shifted to the 92 army base hospital in Srinagar for the immediate treatment.
Talking to The Kashmir Walla, the Public Relation Officer of CRPF, Sanjay Sharma said, “The numbers of casualty are yet ascertained. The investigation is going on.”
This is said to be the worst militant attack on security personnel, in terms of casualty, since the attack on an army brigade headquarters in Uri in September 2016 by militants, which reportedly claimed lives of more than 17 army personnel.
Last fidayeen attack in the Valley was in December 2017, wherein, a 17-year-old local boy, Fardeen Ahmad Khanday, along with the companion of two, killed five CRPF personnel in Lethpora area of Pulwama, south Kashmir.
IGP Kashmir SP Pani said that it was a gruesome militant attack, and the investigations have been taken up. “We have started gathering the sequences how this happened and the people behind it will be brought before the law,” the IGP said, adding, “We are ascertaining chain of circumstances in this incident.”
This deadly attack has raised serious questions on the security system in the Kashmir, as the area where the attack took place, has an intense presence of the army and local police. The movement of army vehicles in this area is also frequent, and generally the local transport is also barred during their movement.
However, in 2017, when the attack was carried out in Lethpora camp, a CRPF official was quoted as saying to Hindustan Times that it was a rare incident in which two local militants were involved. Adding to it, he said that such attacks are normally carried out by foreign militants, however, local militants do not execute such operations in the Valley.
Adding to how the security was breached, while speaking to The Kashmir Walla, Kuldeep Khoda, Ex-DGP of Jammu and Kashmir, said that there are a lot of inputs coming right now about the incident. “First, it came as IED blast, later it was claimed to be a car blast, then a video surfaced on social media of an attacker. But if it was an IED blast in a car which was there already planted, then of course, the road approved party has to give an account that how they missed it,” said Mr. Khoda.
“An in-depth analysis is required to find out as how this could have been avoided. This has been a preferred a mode of militants to target security forces for because of the vigilance and other majors taken (Intelligence based operations which have been going on). These type of attacks were prevented for the long time. Last such attack was taken place more a decade ago.”
The attack raises many questions – on security, as well as on the changing political situation in Jammu and Kashmir, where elections are ahead in a few months.