Nine Indian soldiers killed, 16 hurt in Kashmir attack
by Izhar Wani
1 hour, 6 minutes ago
Nine Indian soldiers were killed and 16 others injured Saturday when their bus was hit by an improvised explosive device in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, the army said.
The attack was the second deadliest attack against the Indian armed forces in the divided state since India and Pakistan started a peace process in January 2004.
“We have nine fatalities,” Indian army spokeswoman Neha Goel told AFP, adding that over a dozen others were hurt in the explosion in Narabal on the outskirts of Indian Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar.
A police officer confirmed nine had died and 16 others were hurt when their bus drove over the mine.
“The terrorists had planted an IED (improvised explosive device) under the soil on a road that was being repaired,” Goel said, adding it went off when a bus, part of a big military convoy, ran over it.
Pro-Pakistan militant group Hizbul Mujahedin claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to the local Current News Service.
“We have carried out the blast and killed more than 20 soldiers,” a Hizbul Mujahedin spokesman claimed.
The soldiers were travelling from Uri, bordering Pakistan-administered Kashmir, to the Indian army’s main headquarters in Srinagar.
The blast ripped through the military bus, turning it sideways, and shattered the windows of six other vehicles, witnesses said. The dead and injured were taken to the Indian army’s main hospital in Srinagar.
Goel said some of the injured were in a “critical condition.”
Soldiers and police later sealed off the area and launched searches to track down any militants.
The blast took place on a key highway and military supply route connecting Srinagar with the northern districts of Baramulla and Kupwara, areas of heavy army and militant activity and both bordering Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan hold the scenic region in part but claim it in full, and have fought two of their three wars over the region.
Pakistan denies Indian allegations that it was behind a Muslim insurgency directed at New Delhi’s rule which broke out in 1989.
Although violence has declined since the peace process was launched, incidents have increased in recent months, including what the Indian army says is an increase in militant infiltrations from Pakistan.
Early this month six Indian soldiers and 12 militants were killed in a long-drawn gun battle along the Line of Control, the mountainous and highly militarised border dividing Kashmir.
Saturday’s explosion came a day after 32 people, including children and police officers, were hurt in a blast at a busy bus station in Banihal, south of Srinagar.
The surge in violence also comes days after Indian Kashmir was placed under federal rule following the collapse of the state government, which had sparked massive protests by agreeing to provide land to a Hindu pilgrim trust.
Indian Kashmir is set to go for fresh elections before November this year, and previous polls have been marred by an upsurge in militant violence.
The attack was the deadliest since May 2004, when 28 Indian troopers and their relatives were killed in a similar blast carried out by Hizbul militants in south Kashmir.