IED blast in Kashmir kills four policemen

At least four policemen were killed in a powerful explosion in Sopore town in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district and banned militant organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the attack.

The improvised explosive device was planted near a shop in a market, which was closed in response to a separatist strike in Sopore to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of 57 people in a security crackdown in 1993. The shutdown has prompted the government to deploy a large number of security forces in the area.

The bomb went off around 10.20 am and three policemen were killed instantly, north Kashmir deputy inspector general of police VK Birdi said. A fourth policeman was severely wounded and died later. This is the second attack by the Pakistan-based militant group after Sunday’s predawn assault on a CRPF camp in south Kashmir. Security forces suffered many casualties in both attacks. A Jaish spokesperson claimed in a statement to news agency GNS that the outfit triggered the blast in Sopore. “The Shaheed Afzal Guru squad carried out the attack,” he said.

According to police officers, the Jaish is trying to fill the space after security forces gunned down several top leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen operating in the Kashmir Valley in 2017.

A police statement said last week that 206 militants were killed last year, including Noor Mohammad Tantray, the fourfoot-tall Jaish commander who was gunned down on December 26. Tantray was a top recruiter for the outfit in the Valley, although most of the recruits are Pakistanis, according to police officer who didn’t want to be named.

Security experts fear the Jaish could be a bigger challenge than the other groups because of its surprise suicide attacks that inflict substantial damage. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and his father, Farooq Abdullah, offered their condolences as well.

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