India mourns dead soldiers amid calls for revenge

17 February, 2019 12:00 AM printer

India mourns dead soldiers amid calls for revenge

The handout photograph taken and released by India’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) on Friday shows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gesturing as he walks next to coffins with the bodies of Indian troops killed in an attack in Kashmir, at Palam airport in New Delhi. India and Pakistan’s troubled ties risked taking a dangerous new turn as New Delhi accused Islamabad of harbouring militants behind one of the deadliest attacks in three decades of bloodshed in Indian-administered Kashmir. —AFP PHOTO

NEW DELHI: Thousands of mourners across India attended funerals on Saturday for some of the 41 soldiers killed in a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir as a round-the-clock curfew remained in force in part of the restive region, reports AFP.

The paramilitary troops were killed on Thursday as explosives packed in a van ripped through a convoy transporting 2,500 soldiers in the disputed Himalayan region, the deadliest attack in a three-decade-old armed conflict.

TV stations showed coffins wrapped in Indian flags being carried by thousands of people across their hometowns, such as Gaya in the east and Unnao in the north, after the bodies were flown to New Delhi late Friday where Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a wreath.

India has accused Pakistan of harbouring the militants behind the attack, which has sparked nationwide outrage and some public calls for war against the nuclear-armed arch rival to avenge the killings.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947, with both the countries, which have fought three wars, claiming it in its entirety. Two buses of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the 78-vehicle convoy were targeted by the bomber on a key highway in the Pulwama district, just outside the main city of Srinagar.

The Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility, and the vehicle was driven by a known local militant named Aadil Ahmad, alias Waqas Commando. The powerful blast reduced one of the buses to a heap of mangled debris. Pictures showed bodies and body parts strewn all over the highway.

“I feel proud of the martyrdom of my son. I expect the government of India to avenge the killings,” Brish Soreng, father of one of the soldiers, told reporters.

Modi on Friday warned that those responsible had made a “big mistake” and would pay a “very heavy price”.

India is garnering diplomatic support after the attack and has vowed to “isolate” Pakistan diplomatically in the international community, saying it has “incontrovertible evidence” of Islamabad’s role.