44 Indian soldiers killed in India-occupied Kashmir – police

Police and paramilitary officials say the blast occurred Thursday in Pampore on the outskirts of the disputed region's main city of Srinagar. (February 14, 2019) (Reuters)

Police say the IED (improvised explosive device) detonated as a police convoy drove by.

A suicide car bomber rammed a bus carrying Indian police officers in Kashmir on Thursday, killing at least 44 of them in a major attack on security forces in the disputed region that could raise tensions with Pakistan.

Local media reports said the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed group had claimed responsibility for the attack.

A spokesman for the group said “the suicide attack” was carried out by Aadil Ahmad, alias Waqas Commando, in a statement sent to local newspapers.

Unconfirmed photos showed the charred remains of at least one vehicle littered across the highway, alongside blue military buses.

Senior police officer Muneer Ahmed Khan said the attack occurred as the convoy reached Pampore on the outskirts of the disputed region’s main city of Srinagar. He said one bus was destroyed and at least five other vehicles were damaged by the blast.

Authorities blamed rebels fighting against Indian rule for the attack.

Khan said soldiers and counterinsurgency police reinforcements were deployed in the area and the injured were evacuated to hospitals.

India’s foreign ministry demanded that its neighbour should act against militant groups operating from its soil.

“We demand that Pakistan stop supporting terrorists and terror groups operating from their territory and dismantle the infrastructure operated by terrorist outfits to launch attacks in other countries,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The attack was the deadliest on Indian forces in that part of Kashmir since September 2016 when 19 soldiers were killed in a pre-dawn militant raid on the Uri army camp.

India and Pakistan each claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety. Militants have been fighting Indian control since 1989.

Most Kashmiris support the militants’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian administration.

About 70,000 people have been killed in the struggle for control of Kashmir.

India has an estimated 500,000 soldiers in Kashmir, which has been divided between India and Pakistan and riven by unrest since the end of British rule in 1947.