At least 40 Indian paramilitary personnel have been killed and several others wounded after a car filled with explosives rammed into a military convoy in Indian-administered Kashmir.
In one of the worst attacks to hit India’s armed forces in nearly three years, the car rammed into one of the buses carrying Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Awantipora in the disputed Himalayan region.
CRPF Director General Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar told the ANI news agency that there were around 2,500 personnel in the convoy when the attack took place.
The Associated Press news agency reported that more than 20 personnel were wounded in the blast.
Videos from the blast site showed smoke billowing from the remains of the CRPF vehicle, while bodies lay strewn across the road.
Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the attack, Reuters news agency said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it a “dastardly attack”, adding that the “sacrifices of the brave soldiers will not go in vain”.
Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, two former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, also condemned the attack on Twitter.
Attack on CRPF personnel in Pulwama is despicable. I strongly condemn this dastardly attack. The sacrifices of our brave security personnel shall not go in vain. The entire nation stands shoulder to shoulder with the families of the brave martyrs. May the injured recover quickly.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 14, 2019
The attack on the Indian paramilitary forces convoy comes a day after at least 25 high school students were injured in an explosion in their classroom in Kashmir.
In the past, civilians have died or been injured while playing with explosives found at the sites of battles between fighters and Indian troops.
The last major attack was in 2016 when rebels raided an Indian army camp in Uri that killed 20 soldiers.
Tension with Pakistan rose after New Delhi said the attackers had come from Pakistan to stage the attack. Pakistan denied any involvement.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947, but both claim the Himalayan territory in full.
India maintains roughly 500,000 soldiers and regularly cracks down on protesters, firing tear gas and pellet guns at demonstrators.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the past three decades in the uprising against Indian rule.
The rebels are demanding Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the fighters, a charge Islamabad denies.
Al Jazeera and news agencies