India’s army said Tuesday, February 19 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 conducted 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 group, which claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, were killed in a gun battle 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, and specifically its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence branch.
Pakistan, which banned the JeM in 2002, has denied any role in the attack.
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.
Kashmir is split between India and Pakistan with both the nuclear-armed countries, which have fought three wars, claiming it in its entirety.
India accuses Pakistan of supporting JeM, one of a host of groups fighting the Indian presence in Kashmir. Islamabad denies the charge.
The deaths of the Indian security men have triggered nationwide anger.
Multiple attacks on Kashmiris have been reported, while arrests have been made for social media comments seen as supporting Pakistan or the militants.
Fliers were distributed in parts of New Delhi on Monday, urging “Hindu brothers” to maim and kill “Muslim traitors.”
Fake videos and photos purportedly showing Thursday’s attack have flooded social media. The Central Reserve Police Force, which was the target of the attack, urged caution over “fake pictures” on social media.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces increased pressure to act as his Hindu nationalist government is expected to call a national election within weeks.
The government has already withdrawn trade privileges for Pakistan, ended police protection for four Kashmiri separatist leaders, and halted some cross-border services.
With reporting from AFP