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At least 40 CRPF personnel were killed in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on Thursday when a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the bus they were travelling in, one of the worst terror strikes in the state in recent years, officials said.
More than 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force personnel, many of them returning from leave to rejoin duty in the Valley, were travelling in the convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Latoomode in Awantipora.
Police said the terrorist driving the suicide vehicle was Adil Ahmad from Kakapora in Pulwama who joined the JeM in 2018.
The casualties are likely to go up.
K Vijay Kumar, Advisor to the Jammu and Kashmir government said that the death toll in the attack is around 40, ANI reported.
The terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack that took place about 30 km from Srinagar, they said.
Several people were injured in the terror attack, which reduced the bus to a mangled heap of iron. Body parts could be seen strewn around the area.
"It was a large convoy and about 2,500 personnel were travelling in multiple vehicles. Some shots were also fired at the convoy," CRPF DG R R Bhatnagar told PTI.
The convoy started from Jammu around 3.30 am and was supposed to reach Srinagar before sunset, officials said.
The number of personnel travelling back to the Valley was high as there was no movement on the highway for the last two to three days because of bad weather and other administrative reasons, they said.
Usually, about 1,000 personnel are part of a convoy.
A road opening party was deployed and the convoy had armoured counter-terror vehicles, officials said.
Forensic and bomb analysis teams are on the spot.
A 12-member National Investigation Agency (NIA) team is leaving for Kashmir to probe the blast. According to ANI an IG-rank officer will head the team.
The bus that was the focus of the attack belongs to the 54th battalion of the force and had 44 personnel on board, officials said.
CRPF Inspector General (Operations) in the Kashmir Valley Zulfiqar Hasan described it as a "vehicle-bound attack" and said Jammu and Kashmir Police has taken up the investigation.
In the attack on the Uri military base in September 2016, JeM militants killed 18 Army jawans and injured dozens of others.
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