Blast near CRPF convoy
An explosion in a car near a CRPF convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on Saturday morning triggered panic because of the striking similarities with the February 14 Pulwama terror attack in which 40 soldiers of the paramilitary force were killed.
The Hyundai Santro was blown into pieces under the impact of the explosion, caused by a cylinder burst around 10.30am.
Police did not rule out a militancy angle as there was no trace of the driver, and another gas cylinder, which did not explode, was found near the wreckage. None was injured and one of the buses in the CRPF convoy, ferrying personnel within Banihal in Jammu, suffered a dent.
“We can’t confirm (whether it was a militant attack). We have not been able to trace the driver of the vehicle…. But it looks like the blast was caused by a gas cylinder,” the sub-divisional police officer of Banihal, Sajjad Sarwar, told The Telegraph.
“Nobody was injured in the blast…. The CRPF vehicle (which suffered minor damage) was very close (at the time of the explosion),” he added.
The officer said the Santro had a Kashmir number plate.
Banihal is the first town on the Jammu side of Jawahar Tunnel, which connects the Valley with the rest of the country. Tethar village, where the blast took place, is 7km from Banihal town.
Officials said the car caught fire immediately after the explosion, leaving security forces who were part of the convoy scurrying for cover.
Traffic on the highway was stopped for some time as panic gripped the area. Security forces, including top officers, rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation. Forensic experts collected samples.
With memories of the Pulwama massacre, during which a Jaish-e-Mohammed operative had rammed his explosives-laden car into a bus that was part of a CRPF convoy travelling on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, still fresh, Saturday’s blast sparked panic in the state, particularly after some leaders jumped the gun and called it a “terrorist attack”.
“Menace of terror reaches Jammu. Blast on Jammu-Srinagar highway at Banihal, CRPF convoy bus hit by an explosion in a Santro car. CRPF vehicle partial damaged. Thank God, no casualty,” Prof Hari Om, a former BJP leader, tweeted.
The Pulwama terror strike had brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.
After the Pulwama terror attack, the authorities had decided not to allow any civilian vehicles on road when the army and other security forces move. But many feel it will not be possible to fully implement such a directive as convoys are a permanent feature on the state’s roads.