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Suicide Bomb Kills at Least 40 Indian Soldiers in Kashmir



AWANTIPORA, Kashmir – A vehicle filled with explosives rammed into a convoy of Indian paramilitary forces on a busy highway in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir on Thursday, killing at least 40 soldiers, local officials said in the worst attack in

As the death toll continued to climb Thursday evening, officials said a suicide attack, targeting a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying some 2,500 people, has split off two buses. It happened at around 3:15 pm local time.

"I have never heard such a blast in my whole life," said Qiesar Mir, a resident of Gundipoor, the village in southern Kashmir where the attack took place. "

Responsibility for the attack was claimed by Jaish-e-Muhammad, or the Army of Muhammad, a militant group that is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States Treasury Department. Although the group is formally banned in Pakistan, it operates and raised funds in the country under different names, Indian and American officials have said in the past.

The latest attack will likely raise tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors, which have

The last time Jaish-e-Muhammad launched a major attack, in 2016, it infiltrated an Indian army base in the city of Uri, Kashmir, and killed 19 soldiers in a predawn raid. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may feel compelled to act by launching another strike across the border, or, in the case of India's military elections, scheduled for this spring, India's military will cross the border to launch what it describes as "surgical strikes" in Pakistan.

risk looking weak in Kashmir, an analyst says.

"I strongly condemn this dastardly attack. The sacrifices of our brave security personnel should not go wrong, "Mr. Modi said on Twitter

Other officials were more emphatic that there was a price to pay and that response was in making.

"We will hunt them down," said Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Satya Pal Malik

But with heavy snow-coverting in the mountains of Kashmir and the disputed border, an attack on targets in Pakistan could be logistically impossible at this time, said Rahul Bedi, a defense analyst with the London-based Jane's Information Group.

Prime Minister "Modi has very little room to maneuver," Mr. Bedi said. "He can come down on the Kashmiri people in a harsher way, he can deploy the army, the police, the paramilitary. But he can only do more of the same. "

The government of Jammu and Kashmir broke down last year, after Mr. Modi's ruling party ended its alliance with a mighty regional party. That has left the state under the control of the central government in New Delhi.

"Kashmir is a pressure cooker," Mr. Bedi said a situation that "does not leave the people any way to channel their anger or ambitions." He added that most of the Kashmir militants are now "home grown", not slipping across the border from Pakistan.

A video appeared on line featuring a man who claims to be the assailant in a Thursday's attack and who gives his name as Aadil Ahmad Dar and his age as 18 years old.

"Do not think that because you have killed some of our commanders that we are finished We will become your nightmare, "Mr. Dar said in the video.

Mr. Another said that he had joined Jaish-e-Muhammad a year ago and that he was from a region of the southern Kashmir valley that has witnessed sporadic violence since Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the charismatic leader of a Kashmiri militant outfit, was killed by the security forces in 2016.

Kashmir, a scenic valley in the Himalayan mountains whose fate was left undecided when the British split India in 1947, has been plagued by violence for decades. Much of the area is controlled by India while Pakistan administers a slightly smaller slice.

A spokesman for Jaish-e-Muhammad, Muhammad Hassan, told local media in a statement that the "dozens" of Indian forces vehicles were destroyed in the attack and that the people of Kashmir would not give up "despite seeing thousands of dead bodies."

Speaking of the attack, Thursday, Amjid Bhat, a 27 year old resident of Gundipoora, said, "It was terrifying to see human flesh on the roadside. "

After the blast Mr.

Last year, 250 militants were killed in Kashmir, according to officials.

By the Thursday night, the Pakistani government had not issued a statement on the attack.


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