44 Killed in Kashmir Suicide Bombing

Andrew Gilkey, Diversion's Editor

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Kashmir suffered it’s deadliest terrorist attack in 30 years this week. The death toll has risen to 44 as tensions mount between Pakistan and India.

A Kashmiri insurgent named Adil Ahmad Dar drove a van filled with explosives devices into an Indian paramilitary convoy. Local officials have stated that this attack is the deadliest in 30 years. The attack has been claimed by Jaish-e-Muhammad, or Army of Muhammed, a militant organization operating in the area. According to Reuters, Indian security forces have apprehended 23 individuals in connection with the attack.

Security forces are still searching for Mohammed Umair, the local commander of Jaish-e-Muhammed, who is believed to be hiding in Kashmir. Indian officials told Reuters that Umair “radicalized and motivated” Dar to commit the atrocity.

Jaish-e-Muhammad has been a point of conflict between Pakistan and India since 1947. India has accused Pakistan of harboring and financially supporting Muslim extremism in the area. According to The New York Times, both Indian and U.S. officials have claimed that organizations like Jaish-e-Muhammad have attracted funding from Pakistan under different names.

India has demanded that Pakistan withdraw any support for Islamist groups; however, officials in Islamabad have denied any involvement. In a late-night Twitter post, an official of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry condemned the violence in Kashmir, adding, “We strongly reject any insinuation” that Pakistan is linked with the attack.

According to The New York Times, India’s Ministry of External Affairs has petitioned the U.N. to put Jaish-e-Muhammad and its leader Masood Azhar on a terrorist sanctions list. Last year, China vetoed a similar action proposed by the U.S.

This latest attack may push an already unstable region further into turmoil. Pakistan and India have fought two wars over the region. With both nations now armed with nuclear weapons, the prospect of a third war has become exponentially more frightening. The region has become increasingly unstable after Prime Minister Mondi ended his party’s alliance with a powerful Kashmiri political group, The People’s Democratic Party. This break up led to mass unrest in the Himalayan region, with demonstrations taking place in major cities and several civil servants abandoning their posts. Indian security forces were accused by the U.N. of using heavy handed tactics against protest.

Despite a long stretch of time in which terroristic attacks were relatively rare, recent years have seen an increase in such activity. No doubt Jaish-e-Muhammad has utilized social media, as many other terrorist organizations have, to recruit young people to its cause.

There are several events that may have cause this recent spike in violent attacks according to Reuters. Many Kashmiri people saw the tentative alliance between The People’s Democratic Party and the ruling government as a betrayal, said who?. With the breakdown of said alliance, the ruling Indian party has been able to utilize less restraint to deal with descent in the region.

In June of 2018, the U.N. released the results of its investigation into atrocities in Kashmir. The report found that Indian security forces were responsible for the deaths of 130 to 145 civilians as well as rampant sexual assaults. However, the report also indicted Pakistan for several human rights violations on their side of the border as well as state sponsored terrorism.  

With the Indian elections being held in less than a month, the conflict in Kashmir is sure to be a deciding factor in a candidate’s victory. The Associated Press states that India has several options to consider when it comes to the Kashmir issue. However, international isolation and direct military action, the two options favored most highly by the Indian public, may be the newest in a long list of final straws between Pakistan and India.