Indian security forces ‘shoot dead’ terror mastermind behind car bombing that killed 44 soldiers

Nine people died when soldiers clashed with suspected militants during a village search in Kashmir

Chiara Giordano
Monday 18 February 2019 17:43
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India Prime Minister Narendra Modi hits out at Pakistan over Kashmir car bomb attack

Indian security forces have “shot dead” the mastermind behind a terror attack that killed 44 soldiers and seriously injured dozens more.

The troops died after a militant suicide bomber rammed a vehicle laden with explosives into a paramilitary convoy in Pulwama, Kashmir, on Thursday.

Tensions have escalated in the aftermath of the incident, as India blamed the attack on Pakistan and promised a “jaw-breaking response”.

Nine people died in a clash on Monday when Indian soldiers came under heavy gunfire as they searched a village in southern Pulwama where militants were rumoured to be hiding.

Among those who died were three militants, including Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who went by the alias Kamran Bhai and who was suspected of playing a leading role in organising the suicide attack.

The clash also killed four soldiers, a police official and a civilian.

Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), a militant group based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for Thursday’s bombing.

India accuses Pakistan of harbouring the group but Pakistan denies that.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but has long been a disputed territory which both claim it in full but rule it in part.

Indian soldiers examine the debris after an explosion in Lethpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district 14 February 2019.

In response to Thursday’s attack, India has increased customs duty on all goods coming from Pakistan to 200 per cent.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley announced on Twitter that India had stripped “most favoured nation” status from Pakistan and had raised basic customs duty on Pakistani goods “with immediate effect”.

Indian troops have cordoned off Pinglan village, where the attack took place on Thursday.

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On Sunday, police said Indian forces had detained 23 men suspected of links to the militants who carried out the bombing.

An indefinite curfew has been imposed and police have asked people to stay indoors.

The suicide bomb attack has sparked outrage in India, with calls for revenge circulating on social media and growing animosity towards Kashmiri Muslims in other parts of the Hindu-majority country.

Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty India, warned: “We are at a dangerous moment, and authorities must do everything they can to uphold the rule of law.

“Ordinary Kashmiris across India who are only seeking to improve their lives should not be singled out for violence simply because of where they come from.”

The anger has also spread to India’s two big obsessions: cricket and its Bollywood film industry.

Several cricket fans and a sport official have called on India to boycott a World Cup match against Pakistan in June, while the Cricket Club of India has covered up a portrait of Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan – himself a former cricketer – at its Mumbai office.

The All India Cine Workers Association called for a “total ban” on Pakistanis working in India’s film industry, though they have been largely blacklisted from Bollywood since a similar attack in Kashmir in 2016 in which 19 soldiers died.

Additional reporting by agencies.

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