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Sharmili Mallick

Srinagar/Bhubaneswar: As many as 45 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Jawans were martyred after a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the bus they were travelling in on Srinagar-Jammu highway in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on Thursday. Of the martyred, two Odia Jawans also lost their lives in the incident which is said to be the worst-ever terror attack since militancy erupted in 1989.

The martyred Odia jawans have been identified as Havildar Prasanna Kumar Sahu (CRPF 61 Battalion) of Shikhar village in Naugaon block of Jagatsinghpur district and Constable Manoj Kumar Behera of Ratanpur village under Niali area in Cuttack district.

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik expressed deepest condolences to the families of the martyred CRPF jawans. Patnaik spoke to the bereaved family members of Sahu and Behera over phone and expressed him sympathy for their loss. He also directed the State Finance and Health Ministers to visit the family of the two Odia jawans.

“I have spoken to the two martyrs’ families from Odisha and offered my deepest condolence. I also very strongly condemn this dastardly act of slaughtering so many jawans,” said Patnaik.

Meanwhile, the Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik has announced ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh each to the family of the martyred Odisha jawans.

The CM also took to twitter and stated, "Deeply saddened by the martyrdom of so many CRPF jawans in terrorist attack in Pulwama district of Jammu And Kashmir. Strongly condemn the cowardly act and condolences to the bereaved families."

Former MP Baijayant Panda also expressed deep condolences to the families of martyrs of Pulwama attack. "Deepest condolences to families of martyrs of Pulwama attack with a heavy heart. Two martyrs were from his home state Odisha Shaheeed Prasanna Kumar Sahoo from Jagatsinghpur & Shaheed Manoj Behera from Cuttack," tweeted Office of Jay Panda.

Police sources said a suicide bomber-driven SUV came along the CRPF bus when a 78-vehicle convoy carrying 2,547 security personnel was going from the transit camp in Jammu to Srinagar.

While precise details of the attack were still unclear, police sources said the suicide bomber-driven SUV came along the CRPF bus when a 78-vehicle convoy carrying 2,547 security personnel was going from the transit camp in Jammu to Srinagar. The SUV rammed into the bus at around 3.15 pm, triggering a deafening explosion and reducing the bus to a mangled heap of iron.

So devastating was the attack — one report spoke of 200 kg of explosives, including probably RDX, packed into the SUV — that the CRPF bus was left in a mangled heap, many of its occupants losing their limbs. The bus was transporting 39 troopers.

CRPF officials said the bus, which was the main target of the militants, was destroyed fully while another CRPF vehicle was partly damaged. “It is difficult to believe how anyone in that bus could have survived,” said a police officer.

It is also the worst attack carried out by militants after the one on the Uri Army camp on September 18, 2016 which left 19 soldiers dead — forcing New Delhi to launch ‘surgical strikes’ on terrorist camps in Pakistan.

The Pakistan-based JeM has claimed responsibility for the attack and released a video clip of the suicide bomber, a ‘commander’ identified as Adil Ahmad Dar, which it claimed was shot before the young man carried out the strike in Lethpora, 30 km from Srinagar.

(With IANS inputs)

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