Eight police officials killed, 21 wounded in militant attack in Indian Kashmir

So far, at least 42 people have been killed in clashes with security forces and around 3000 remain injured.?Cellphone services and mobile internet remains blocked in Jammu and Kashmir. (Representative image) Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters Srinagar, Kashmir Jun 26, 2016, 05.03 AM (IST)
Militants killed eight police officials and injured 21 when they attacked a security convoy in Jammu & Kashmir on Saturday, a police spokesman said, in an attack claimed by Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Two men attacked a convoy of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on a highway near the Pampore town, 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the state capital Srinagar. The militants were killed by CRPF officials who were guarding the highway, police spokesman Bhavesh Kumar Choudhary said.

Dr Abdullah Gaznavi, a spokesman for LeT, told Reuters by phone that the attack was carried out by members of the group's suicide squad. Gaznavi claimed 13 CRPF police officials were killed in the fighting that lasted for an hour.

In the wake of the attack, Indian home minister Rajnath Singh today clearly accused Pakistan of trying to destabilise India even as he said lapses, if any, in yesterday's incident will be looked into and status of infiltration ascertained.

A three-member team comprising of Indian home ministry officials will visit Kashmir on Tuesday to find out if there were any lapses involved in the attack in Pampore, the deadliest one on security forces in recent years.

The team will look into the possible increase of cross border Infiltration and practices being followed during the movement of paramilitary forces convoy in Jammu and Kashmir, Indian officials said.

After the attack, the CRPF has moved about half-a-dozen heavy-armoured mine protected vehicles (MPVs) which were earlier used for operations against Left wing extremists, to the Kashmir Valley to effectively secure its troops deployed there.

Violence in Kashmir has spiked against a backdrop of rising social tension and separatist sentiment in the Muslim-majority region, which for decades has been at the centre of a strategic tussle between India and Pakistan.

In May, militants shot dead three policemen at point-blank range. In February, militants attacked a bus carrying police reservists near Srinagar, before breaking into a training institute.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir, which they both claim in full, but rule in part.

India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the rebels in the portion it controls and sending them to the Indian side, a claim its neighbour denies.

Mehbooba Mufti, chief minister of Indian Kashmir, condemned Saturday's attack. "The only purpose of such blood-spattered acts of violence is to add to the tragedies and miseries of the people," she said in a statement.

Observing that such attacks "defame" the state, she highlighted that the strike had been carried out during Ramzan, the holy month when "people should be seeking forgiveness and expiation for past sins" and "making sure not to hurt others."