Pulwama bomb blast
Death toll has risen to 45.IANS

The toll from Thursday's terror attack in Pulwama on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy rose to 45 as two more troopers died, officials said on Friday. As many as 38 soldiers were wounded in the worst-ever terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Pulwama attack 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.

The attack took place around 3.15 p.m. on Thursday when a 'suicide bomber belonging to the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) terror outfit rammed an explosive-laden SUV into a bus carrying CRPF troopers in Lethpora area of Pulwama district on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway, officials said. All soldiers in the bus that was attacked were killed.

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.

"None among the 44 CRPF men travelling in the bus that took the full impact of the suicide bombing survived ... n injured person in another bus has also succumbed taking the death toll to 45," ," a CRPF official told IANS.  The official added that said the injured (38) CRPF men are being treated in the Army base hospital in Badamibagh cantonment area of Srinagar.

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

The government has said it was "firmly and resolutely committed to take all necessary measures to safeguard national security". 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.

The CRPF convoy of 78 vehicles was coming from Jammu to Srinagar. The convoy carried 2,547 CRPF personnel. The attack happened even as an intelligence input had warned of its the possibility 48 hours earlier. The audacious attack, the worst-ever since armed insurgency started in the state in 1989, was carried out by the JeM.

The intelligence input had said: "Chatter inputs reveal that JeM outfit has hinted to carry out IED attacks along the routes of security forces across Jammu and Kashmir. A video uploaded by the outfit has also been shared with all concerned. It is as such suggested that security forces need to be put on alert to thwart any such attempt by terrorists."

Informed sources said the intelligence input was shared with all security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. The video that was uploaded along with the threat message showed a truck carrying troops in Somalia blown up in a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) blast. In the message, the JeM had warned of a similar type of blast.

Massive explosion

A video released by the JeM after the attack identified the suicide bomber as Adil Ahmad Dar alias Waqas Commando, belonging to Kakapora town of Pulwama district. Police sources said the bomber rammed his explosive-laden SUV into the CRPF bus and is believed to have been killed in the explosion. There is, however, no official confirmation about the bomber's death .

Senior police and CRPF officials reached the spot immediately for post blast analysis. The explosion was so massive that its sound was heard 10 km away. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was briefed by National Security Advisor (NSA), Ajit Doval about the incident on Thursday.

Modi would chair a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) at 9.15 a.m. in Delhi on Friday. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, accompanied by Union Home Secretary and other senior officers of the ministry, is likely to arrive here on Friday. A 12-member team of national Investigation agency (NIA) and another team of t he national security guards (NSG) are also expected to arrive here to assist the police in the investigation of the terror strike.

(With inputs from IANS)