Wed, Feb 20, 2019 - Page 6 News List

India says suicide attack mastermind killed

INTERVENTION:Denying responsibility for the blast, Pakistan has asked for UN help to defuse tensions, while warning India it would retaliate if attacked

AFP, SRINAGAR, India, and ISLAMABAD

Women in Pinglena Village in Kashmir’s Pulwama District yesterday watch the funeral prayers of Mushtaq Ahmad, a civilian, and Hilal Ahmad Naikoo, a suspected militant, who according to local media were killed during a gunbattle between suspected militants and Indian security forces on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

India’s army yesterday said that it had killed the mastermind of a major suicide bomb attack in Kashmir which it blamed on Pakistan, as calls grew for reprisals over the deaths of more than 40 paramilitaries and soldiers.

Indian forces have staged operations since Thursday’s attack, while anti-Pakistan and anti-Kashmir sentiment has spread across the country, fueled by social media, including widely shared false news reports.

Three militants from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group, which claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, were killed in a gunbattle that lasted much of Monday, Lieutenant General Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon told a press conference in Srinagar.

Two of the militants were Pakistanis, including the group’s “chief operations commander” in Kashmir, the army general said.

Dhillon said the attack had been “masterminded” by Pakistan — specifically, its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence branch.

Pakistan, which banned the JeM in 2002, has denied any role in the attack.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947. Both countries claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars in connection to the dispute.

The attack on a military convoy by an explosives-packed car was the deadliest assault on security personnel in Kashmir for three decades.

Hundreds of Indian soldiers on Monday raided a suspected militant hideout in a village close to the site of Thursday’s attack.

Besides the three militants, the battle left four Indian soldiers, a policeman and a civilian dead.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday said that Islamabad was ready to help India investigate Thursday’s blast, but would retaliate if New Delhi attacks.

“Pakistan won’t just think to retaliate. Pakistan will retaliate,” Khan said in a nationally televised address.

The former cricket hero went on to demand New Delhi share proof of Islamabad’s involvement in the suicide blast.

Khan vowed that if any militant group was using Pakistani soil to launch attacks, “its enmity is with us. This is against our interest.”

Minutes after the address, Khan’s official Instagram account posted a picture of the prime minister — scowling and cross-armed — along with a message that read: “Don’t mess with my country.”

Earlier yesterday, Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi pleaded with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to intervene, saying India was threatening to “use force against Pakistan” and abandon a vital water treaty.

“It is imperative to take steps for de-escalation. The United Nations must step in to defuse tensions,” Qureshi wrote in a message shared with reporters.

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