| Tahir Hussain Chowdhury, a member of a village defence committee, gives arms training to women in a village, 260 km from Jammu on Saturday. (Reuters)
Srinagar, Dec. 5: A massive blast late last night killed an army patrol party of 11 at Nain Batapora in south Kashmir's Pulwama district.
The explosion is one of the worst attacks on security forces in recent times. It ripped apart the Tata Sumo in which the patrol party was travelling.
'It was a huge explosion, it shook the whole area,' a police officer said. The blast created a 10-foot crater, making it impossible for traffic to ply on the road that connects Anantnag and Pulwama, Ravinder Kotwal, the deputy inspector-general, south Kashmir, said.
Police sources said the patrol party was being led by Major Lalit of the 1st Rashtriya Rifles and was returning from a counter-insurgency operation in the hired Sumo.
The vehicle, carrying the army personnel, a special police officer and a civilian driver, had turned towards a link road near Sangam and passed over a water pipe at Batapora when the explosion occurred, killing all the occupants.
The driver of the vehicle was identified as Mehraj-ud-Din and the special police officer as Imitiaz Ahmad.
The Hizb-ul Mujahideen has called newspaper offices claiming responsibility for the blast. A spokesperson for the outfit claimed the militants escaped with six AK assault rifles, a light machine gun and three wireless sets of the slain army personnel.
A police officer said the militants had planted a massive RDX charge in the water pipe laid under the road and triggered it when the vehicle passed over it.
This morning, contingents of the army, paramilitary and local police surrounded the area and started a massive manhunt.
A police officer described the blast as the 'worst landmine explosion I have ever seen in the last 15 years'.
The officer also confirmed that 'the vehicle had been blown to pieces' while the bodies of the victims were badly mutilated.
The blast comes on the heels of a militant attack on a security camp in Sopore in which five securitymen and two militants were killed after a 24-hour gunbattle yesterday.
In another incident, three militants holed up in a mosque in Ban village, Anantnag, were killed in an exchange of fire today.
A BSF jawan was found hanging from a tree in the Jaganoo forests in Udhampur this morning, official sources said. Anil Kumar was missing from his unit for four days.