On the afternoon of 14th February, 2019 a convoy of vehicles along the Jammu Srinagar National Highway carrying Central Reserve Police Force was targeted by terrorists with a car bomb at Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district. Responsibility of the Pulwama attack was attributed to Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad.
In 2001, three terrorists of the Jaish-e-Mohammad attacked the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly in Srinagar using a Tata Sumo loaded with explosives killing 38 people. The recent Pulwama attack resembles the same pattern.
On August 26, 2017, three terrorists stormed the District Police Lines Pulwama, killing eight security force personnel, before the assailants were shot dead.
Attack in Iran
“It is certain that the perpetrators of this crime were linked to spy agencies of certain regional and trans-regional countries and the country’s relevant organizations must focus on that and seriously pursue it.”
– Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei
A photograph released by the state-run Fars News Agency was said to show a Revolutionary Guards Corps bus that had been blown up in a suicide attack in southeastern Iran.CreditCreditFars News Agency, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Pulwama attack mirrors a suicide bombing in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan border province a day earlier which left 27 elite Revolutionary Guards dead and 13 others wounded. A unit of Revolutionary Guards in south-eastern Iran was returning in a bus from the Pakistan border on Wednesday when an explosive-laden car blew up on Khash-Zahedan road, killing all security personnel on board.
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Pakistan must also be accountable for terror attack in Iran as the assault was plotted on and launched from Pakistani soil. “The Pakistani government should be accountable for this act involving the grouplet orchestrating and conducting the operation from their (the Pakistanis’) territory,” Larijani said during a parliamentary session. He said that despite the respect Iran has for the government in neighboring Pakistan, “such behavior will severely damage the level of cooperation between the two countries.” Iranian border guards have repeatedly come under attacks by terror outfits active on the Pakistani soil. The two neighbors signed a security deal in 2013.
According to sources in security agencies, the modus operandi was similar—ramming an explosive-laden vehicle into a bus carrying soldiers. In both cases, the terror outfits that claimed responsibility for the bombings have the same first name – Jaish. The so-called Jaish ul-Adl terrorist group, which is linked to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The terrorist outfit was formed in 2012 by members of the Pakistan-based Jundallah, another terror group dismantled by Iranian intelligence forces in 2010 after its ringleader Abdolmalek Rigi was executed.
However, in contrast to the Indian response the Iranians not only identified the players on the ground but also its state sponsorship and the regimes pulling the string from the background. Instead of just focusing on the foot-soldiers as is the norm in any investigation in India, Iran has gone beyond in uncovering the geopolitical angle to the attacks which is the norm with major players.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei denounced the attack, saying the spy agencies of certain regional and trans-regional countries certainly had a hand in this crime: “It is certain that the perpetrators of this crime were linked to spy agencies of certain regional and trans-regional countries and the country’s relevant organizations must focus on that and seriously pursue it.”
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif raised suspicion about the attack’s possible links to an anti-Iran summit co-hosted by the US and Poland, which kicked off in Warsaw on a day earlier. President Hassan Rouhani also described the US and the Israeli regime as the “root causes of terror” in the Middle East region as he condemned the deadly attack on the IRGC forces.
Top US leaders and other global officials at the Warsaw summit on Middle East security — which was mainly about thwarting Iran — on February 13, 2019. Sean Gallup/Getty Images
The chief commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) warned Saudi Arabia and the UAE that they could face retaliatory measures for supporting terrorists on behalf of the US and Israel. General Mohammad Ali Jafari said, “The patience that the establishment once exercised against conspiracies and reactionary regimes in the region, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE which carry out these acts on orders from the US and Israel, will be different and we will definitely take reparative measures”.
Kashmir received heavy snowfall since January. According to India Meteorological Department around the day of the attack minimum temperature in Srinagar was zero degree Celsius while it was minus 2.6 and minus 6.2 degree in Pahalgam and Gulmarg, respectively.
The Srinagar-Jammu highway had been shut for the past two days because of bad weather. A lot of jawans got stranded in Jammu because of roadblocks due to snowfall. Last convoy movement happened on 4 February. Hence, the CRPF requested to be air-lifted, which was refused by top=government officials. If at all they were to be sent by road, a request was also made to provide armored-trucks instead of buses. This gave the terrorists a dual advantage of blocking the entire convoy as well as causing maximum damage.
On the afternoon of 14th February, 2019 an unusually high number of personnel, some 2,500 soldiers were on the move on the National Highway 44 in a convoy of 70 vehicles because the Srinagar-Jammu highway had been shut for the past two days because of bad weather. The attack site Awantipora, around 20 km from Srinagar is considered to be a sanitized and heavily-protected highway.
According to the statement released by the CRPF:
- The convoy started from Jammu around 4am. It was an Up Convoy to Srinagar.
- 70 vehicles were in this convoy with 2,500 CRPF personnel.
- Road opening party had cleared the route.
- The convoy had last checked in at Anantnag.
- A civilian car was laden with IED.
According to the statement released by Jammu and Kashmir Police:
- Our preliminary report suggests that a car laden with IED was at the spot. It is not clear at this moment that whether the car rammed into the convoy or was parked before hand. Mangled remains of the car is at the spot that is being investigated. But difficult to identify at this stage.
- The terrorists did not target the security car ahead of the bus. The plan was to only target the CRPF bus.
Remains of Mahindra Scorpio used for suicide bombing in Pulwama attack
Initial reports suggested that the vehicle used by the terrorists was a Mahindra Scorpio carrying more than 350 kg (disputed) of explosives. Investigators came to the conclusion that a red Maruti Suzuki Eco was used after a bumper of the vehicle was found at the site. NIA sources informedOneIndia that the Maruti team would trace the vehicle owner to the vehicle dealer, from where the ownership details would be collected.
Sources told CNN-News18 that the jawans travelling in bus numbers 2 and 4 had seen bomber Adil Dar drive a red car near the convoy minutes before he rammed bus number 3. “He swerved left and right for at least two minutes while the escorts in bus 3 repeatedly told him to get away from the convoy,” an eyewitness told investigators. CRPF jawans travelling in the other buses have told investigators that the red Eeco car started tailing the convoy from Jammu. “His attempts to hit the convoy started with the last bus. He succeeded with bus number 3.”
The distance from Jammu to Awantipora is over 200 kms. Soldiers in the convoy knew something was amiss about the red car since the beginning of the stretch from Jammu. Yet they managed to slip through the nose of the entire convoy.
The suicide attacker, driving towards the convoy from the opposite direction, rammed a bus with 39 personnel. Bullet marks on the bus indicate that more terrorists may have been hiding and may have fired at the convoy. Some unverified reports of grenade lobbying and firing upon vehicles of 35 Battalion and 179 Battalion were also reported.
Usually, troops are airlifted for safety but in this case, a large contingent was moving together, setting it up for a terror strike. Sources saythe convoy, which started around 3:30 am from Jammu, was big because the highway had been shut over bad weather for two days. The soldiers were rejoining duty after leave and were to report in Srinagar for deployment.
Around 3 pm, the suicide bomber, Adil Ahmad Dar — a local terrorist who lived 10 km away — was waiting to strike with a car full of explosives. There was around 60 kg (disputed) of RDX in his car, according to sources. So powerful was the impact that some bus parts were found a km away. It is not clear how he got his hands on so much RDX, who helped him and how such a big consignment went unnoticed.