India vowed revenge against Pakistan after a suicide attack killed 44 Indian soldiers in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir on Friday. The Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, or the Army of Mohammed, claimed responsibility for the car bombing. The Indian media called it the worst attack on armed forces in recent decades.

“We will give a befitting reply, our neighbor will not be allowed to destabilize us,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a speech following the terror attack. “Politicians in the Capital are discussing options to respond and hit back at terrorists,” India Today reported, adding that “some of the top Army generals have been given the responsibility to weigh and execute their plans.”

The terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed named the suicide bomber as Adil Ahmed Dar, a 19-year-old ‘aspiring’ Muslim cleric. “By the time this video is out, I will be enjoying in heaven,” Dar is seen saying in a video clip release by the Islamist group. “I am the real propagator of Islam and my name will be written in golden letters.”

“A retaliatory response could come soon. It will also be visible, high-decibel and wrapped in claims of victorious retribution,” the left-leaning Indian news website The Print noted. “The Indian military has acknowledged contingency plans exist for punishing Pakistan more severely in the event of a damaging terrorist attack,” the BBC confirmed, cautioning that “all such plans carry the danger of retaliation and uncontrolled escalation.”

Since 1990, India has faced a sustained terrorist campaign in the Muslim-dominated Himalayan region of Kashmir. Islamic terrorists have killed more than 14,000 Indian civilians and 5,000 security personnel during this period, according to official Indian figures.

“Nation waits for revenge for Pulwama attack from Pakistan,” the leading Indian news network Zee noted, summing up the mood across the country. The Singapore-based Straits Times reported the sentiment in India:

Thousands of mourners across India attended funerals on Saturday (Feb 16) 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. (…)

TV stations showed coffins wrapped in Indian flags being carried by thousands of people across their home towns, such as Gaya in the east and Unnao in the north, after the bodies were flown to New Delhi late on 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.

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, called his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, and expressed ‘U.S. support for India’s right to self-defense.’ The Hindu reported:

A day after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel, United States National Security Adviser John Bolton told his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval that Washington supported India’s right to self-defence against cross-border terrorism. Both sides vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan ceases to be a safe haven for the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and other terror groups. (…)

“I told Ajit Doval today that we support India’s right to self-defence. I have spoken to him twice, including this morning… and expressed the U.S.’s condolences over the terrorist attack,” Mr. Bolton told PTI [Indian news agency].

He said the U.S. had been very clear to Pakistan on ending support to terrorist safe havens. “We have been very clear on that score… And, we are continuing to be in discussions we are going to have with the Pakistanis.”

The Trump administration also urged Islamabad to freeze the financial assets of the Pakistan-based Islamist terror group. “The U.S. designated JeM [Jaish-e-Mohammed] as a foreign terrorist organization in December 2001, and we fully support actions to prevent them from conducting future attacks,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said. “We expect Pakistan to uphold its responsibilities pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions to deny safe haven and support for terrorists and to freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of individuals and entities on the UNSC [United Nations Security Council] 1267 sanctions list.”

The latest escalation could lead to a situation similar to the military standoff of 2008 following the Mumbai terror attack that killed 170 people, including six U.S. citizens. That attack was carried out by another Pakistan-based terrorist group called Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the Army of the Righteous. In September 2016, after jihadis attacked an Army base in Kashmir, Indian forces entered into Pakistan, destroying at least six terrorist bases along the border. With Washington affirming India’s right to self-defense, New Delhi could be prompted to undertake a bolder military action this time around.

[Cover image via YouTube]


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