Srinagar: In the worst ever terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir since militancy erupted in 1989, a suicide bomber on Thursday rammed his SUV packed with explosives into a CRPF bus on the Srinagar-Jammu highway in Pulwama district, killing at least 42 troopers and leaving the security established stunned.
The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the horror and released a video clip of the suicide bomber, a ‘commander’ identified as Adil Ahmad Dar, which it claimed was shot before the young man carried out the strike in Lethpora, about 30 km from here.
While precise details of the attack were still unclear, police sources said the suicide bomber-driven SUV came along the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) bus when a 78-vehicle convoy carrying 2,547 security personnel was going from the transit camp in Jammu to Srinagar and rammed it into the bus around 3.15 p.m., triggering a deafening explosion.
So devastating was the attack — one report spoke of 200 kg of explosives, including probably RDX, packed into the SUV — that the CRPF bus was left in a mangled heap, many of its occupants losing their limbs. The bus was transporting 39 troopers.
CRPF officials said the bus which was the main target of the militants was destroyed fully while another CRPF vehicle was partly damaged. “It is difficult to believe how anyone in that bus could have survived,” said a police officer.
Jammu and Kashmir Police chief Dilbag Singh said it could have been a suicide attack. This was confirmed by other officials later.
In a statement to a local news agency GNS, a caller claiming to be a spokesman of JeM said it was a ‘fidayeen’ (suicide) attack.
All the injured were shifted to the Army’s 92 Base Hospital in the Badamibagh cantonment of Srinagar city. Some of them were in critical condition.
Suicide bomber rammed SUV into CRPF bus, killing 44 troopers:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in condemning the horror.
“The attack … 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,” he tweeted.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was to visit Bihar on Friday, is set to reach Srinagar instead. Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba cut short his visit to Bhutan to rush to Srinagar for a high-level security meeting on Friday.
“Today’s dastardly attack … is extremely painful and disturbing. I bow to each and every CRPF jawan who has sacrificed his life in service to the nation,” Rajnath Singh said.
All traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway came to an abrupt halt. Senior police and CRPF officers rushed to the spot for a post-explosion analysis.
An officer said the CRPF and police would carry out a detailed investigation to understand the circumstances in which the attack took place.
This is the worst single attack in Jammu and Kashmir since a nascent Pakistan-backed separatist campaign began in 1989. It is also the worst attack carried out by militants after the one on the Uri Army camp on September 18, 2016 left 19 soldiers dead — forcing New Delhi to launch ‘surgical strikes’ on terrorist camps in Pakistan.
Officials said the reason why so many CRPF personnel were on the move at one go was because the Srinagar-Jammu highway had been shut the past two days due to bad weather. The convoy left Jammu before dawn.
Why Wayanad could be a safe seat for Rahul Gandhi
Wayanad, which could soon become a VVIP constituency if Congress President Rahul Gandhi decides to contest the Lok Sabha election from there, has been a Congress safe seat.
In the last two Lok Sabha elections, in 2014 and 2009, M.I. Shanavas of the Congress won the seat, defeating the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Kerala’s predominantly bipolar electoral politics.
In that sense, picking Wayanad as Gandhi’s constituency is a careful choice as is the calibrated demand to have him contest from a southern Indian seat apart from Amethi where he faces Union Minister Smriti Irani.
The Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency is newly formed and was created following fresh delimitation of seats in 2008.
The seat has been vacant since last year following the MP’s death.
For the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the total number of electors in Wayanad was 11,02,097. Shanavas got 410,703 votes, which was 49.86 per cent of votes polled. He defeated Advocate M. Rahmatullam of the CPI, who got 257,264 (31.23 per cent).
In that election, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s C. Vasudevan Master got 31,687 votes which was a mere 3.85 per cent of the votes polled. He came a distant fourth in the contest.
K. Muraleedharan of the Nationalist Congress Party did better than the BJP candidate, coming third with 99,663 votes (12.10 per cent).
Compared to 2009, Shanavas had a tough time winning the seat in 2014, scraping through with a little more than 20,000 votes over the second placed CPI candidate to become one of the 44 Congress MPs in the last Lok Sabha.
In 2014, Shanavas got 377,035 votes or 30.18 per cent of the votes polled compared to CPI’s Sathyan Mokeri who got 356,165 votes or 28.51 per cent. However, that election saw the BJP placed third with its candidate P.R. Rasmilnath bagging 80,752 votes (6.46 per cent).
The others in the race, all bit players, fared as follows. Independent candidate P.V. Anvar got 37,123 votes (2.97 per cent), SDPI’s Jaleel Neelambra got 14,327 votes (1.146 per cent) and WPOI’s Ramla Mampad got 12,645 votes (1.01 per cent).
NOTA votes figured seventh on the tally — 10,735 or 0.85 per cent.
PPA Sageer of AAP got 10,684 votes, which was 0.85 of votes polled, Sathyan Thazemangad, an independent candidate, got 5,476 votes or 0.43 of votes polled.
The Wayanad Lok Sabha seat comprises seven Assembly segments. Three of these are from Wayanad district — Mananthavady (ST), Sulthanbathery (ST) and Kalpetta. One is from Kozikode district (Thiruvambadi) and three are from Malappuram district — Ernad, Nilambur and Wandoor (SC).
Why Wayanad could be a safe seat for Rahul Gandhi
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