A day after 40 soldiers were killed in the worst attack on security forces in Kashmir, investigators of anti-terror commando force the National Security Guard (NSG) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) headed to the terror site amid several questions raised on possible lapses in intelligence and security protocol.
This is the most number of deaths in a single terror attack in over three decades in Jammu and Kashmir.
The attack was bound to cause a high number of casualties, given that more than 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were moving in one go, in 78 armoured buses on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.
Sources say just two days before the Pulwama terror attack, the Jaish had uploaded a video from Afghanistan of a car bombing, and had threatened a similar attack in Kashmir. According to sources, the Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Investigation Department had shared the video and inputs about a possible attack.
Usually, troops are airlifted for safety but in this case, a large contingent was moving together, setting it up for a terror strike.
Sources say the convoy, which started around 3:30 am from Jammu, was big because the highway had been shut over bad weather for two days. The soldiers were rejoining duty after leave and were to report in Srinagar for deployment.
Around 3 pm, the suicide bomber, Adil Ahmad Dar — a local terrorist who lived 10 km away — was waiting to strike with a car full of explosives. There was around 60 kg of RDX in his car, according to sources. So powerful was the impact that some bus parts were found a km away.
It is not clear how he got his hands on so much RDX, who helped him and how such a big consignment went unnoticed.
The bomber tried to overtake the convoy from the left and spotted two buses full of CRPF personnel. He detonated the explosives next to one of the buses, causing a huge explosion that was heard several km away. One bus was blown into smithereens and the one nearest to it was also ripped apart.
An official said if the buses were moving close together, it is a huge violation of Standard Operating Procedure. Any two vehicles in a convoy must be a safe distance apart so that collateral damage is minimised.
The highway had been sanitised in the morning for the movement of CRPF buses. Despite that, the bomber was able to access it.
Sources believe the attack was a few months in the making. The sheer scale of it betrays meticulous planning.
The car bomb attack has changed the security paradigm in Kashmir, said an officer, and would require a recalibration of strategy.