As the toll in the suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama climbed to 40 Friday, preliminary investigations have found that the explosive used in the bombing could be around 10-15 kg of RDX.
With separate teams of the the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) arriving in J&K to inspect the site of the explosion, sources said that agencies are also trying to determine why a 15-km stretch on the national highway — from Pampore to Awantipora — has been used to target security forces in the Valley on multiple occasions. Follow LIVE updates
The two teams visited the site of the attack at Lethpora, some 30 km from Srinagar on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, took photographs and videos and collected samples from the area for forensic examination. Sources said a team from the National Bomb Data Centre (NBDC) of the National Security Guard also visited the area to throw light on the nature of the IED used in the attack.
The NIA team, it is learnt, also spoke to some CRPF members, who were part of the convoy that was targeted by the suicide car bomber, as well as J&K Police officers.
Agencies have also taken tower dumps of the attack area to filter out suspicious calls and those made in around the same time as the attack. With the Jaish-e-Mohammed claiming responsibility, investigators are scrutinising records of suspicious numbers to see if calls were made to or received from across the border in the last few days.
Sources said since that the vehicle used in the attack went unnoticed despite being laden with a lethal IED, investigators suspect that the IED was assembled in the car in Lethpora and perhaps not more than a day before the bombing.
According to officials, this stretch of the highway has seen several attacks over the past few years despite the presence of Army Road Opening Parties (ROP) and the deployment of CRPF personnel along the stretch every morning.
On June 25, 2016, on the same stretch, militants stopped a CRPF bus which was part of a convoy and fired indiscriminately, killing eight paramilitary personnel and wounding more than 20. In another attack on this stretch, militants opened fire on a CRPF bus wounding 11. In 2014, militants fired on a BSF convoy on the same stretch injuring close to a dozen personnel.
“In the past, the highway passed through residential areas and it gave militants an advantage,” a senior officer said. “Though a new highway has come-up, militants this time also chose a stretch that is close to a residential area.”