Srinagar  -   Refusing to bow down to the ever-increasing Indian brutalities in Occupied Kashmir, the freedom fighters on Thursday struck back hard at the occupational forces when a car bomb ripped through an Indian military convoy killing 44 soldiers and injuring dozens of others on Srinagar-Jammu highway in Awantipora area of Pulwama district.

The Indian government tried to give the incident terrorism colour claiming that Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad was behind it but the JeM was quick to trash the statement of Indian foreign ministry saying New Delhi was trying to take away the credit from the valiant Kashmir youth. “JeM has nothing to do with it,” a Jaish spokesman added.

The incident took place when a car laden with explosives hit a convoy of India’s paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force triggering off intensive blasts. At least 44 CRPF men were killed and several others seriously wounded, who were shifted to Indian army’s 92 base hospital at Badami Bagh in Srinagar.

It was the deadliest attack on Indian forces in Occupied Kashmir for years.

CRPF Director General Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar told the ANI news agency that there were around 2,500 personnel in the convoy when the attack took place.

Videos from the blast site showed smoke billowing from the remains of the CRPF vehicle, while bodies lay strewn across the road.

The blast took place on the heavily guarded Srinagar-Jammu highway about 20km from Srinagar. “It’s not yet clear how many vehicles were in the convoy. A car overtook the convoy and rammed into a bus with security personnel on board,” a senior Indian police official told BBC.

The official said the death toll might increase because dozens were “critically injured”.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was a “despicable” and “dastardly” attack. Two former chief ministers of the state, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have also tweeted about the attack.

Prior to Thursday’s bombing, the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in Kashmir this century came in 2002, when freedom fighters killed at least 31 people at an army base in Kaluchak near Jammu.

Bashir Manzar, a journalist based in Indian-occupied Kashmir, said the bombing will boost the morale of freedom fighters and contradicted claims the situation in Kashmir is being brought under control. “Over the past few months, political leaders in Srinagar and Delhi have made tall claims about how the situation in Kashmir has been normalised and hundreds of fighters, including top leaders, had been killed,” he told BBC.

The attack on the Indian paramilitary forces convoy comes a day after at least one high school student was killed and 28 others were injured in an explosion in their classroom in Occupied Kashmir.

Senior Kashmiri resistance leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Chairman of Hurriyat Forum Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in their separate statements issued in Srinagar expressed serious concern over the killing of a teenage boy and injuries to 28 students in Kupwara and Pulwama districts in mysterious blasts. Gilani termed the occurrence of back-to-back blasts as a well-thought-out conspiracy against the freedom struggle. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Mohammad Yasin Malik, the Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, and Hurriyat leader Mukhtar Ahmad Waza visited SMHS hospital in Srinagar to enquire about the health condition of the injured students.

Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir Chairman, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai in a statement issued in Srinagar said the Indian establishment was hell-bent upon eroding the internationally recognized disputed status of the territory by fiddling with Article 35A and Article 370 of the Indian constitution. He urged the Indian Supreme Court to dismiss the petitions challenging these Articles.

Indian police arrested a prominent Hurriyat activist, Muhammad Akram Najar, during a night raid at Kralgund in Handwara area of Kupwara district.

India maintains roughly 500,000 soldiers and regularly cracks down on protesters, firing tear gas and pellet guns at demonstrators. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the past three decades in the uprising against Indian rule.