India nabs 23 over Jammu suicide attack

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Indian Army soldiers arrive near the site of a gun battle between suspected militants and Indian security forces in Pinglan village in south Kashmir's Pulwama district February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Younis Khaliq

SRINAGAR (Reuters) – Indian forces have detained 23 men suspected of links to the Pakistan-based militant group that masterminded the bombing of an Indian security convoy that killed 44 paramilitary police, a top police official said on Sunday.

The 23 men included members and sympathisers of Jaish-e-Mohammad, the militant group which has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack, the deadliest on Indian security forces in decades.

The attack has fuelled tensions between India and Pakistan.

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India has demanded Pakistan close down the Jaish and other Islamist militant groups that operate from its soil, while Islamabad has rejected suggestions it was linked to the attack.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region at the heart of decades of hostility, is claimed in its entirety by India and Pakistan, but is ruled in part by both south Asian countries.

Representatives of India’s National Investigating Agency (NIA) questioned the suspects about the bombing on Sunday, two security officials said.

“They are trying to reach out to the top commanders of Jaish-e-Mohammad, including its Kashmir Chief,” one of the sources said.

Mohammed Umair, the commander of the Jaish in Kashmir who is believed to have plotted the attack, is suspected to be hiding in the region where the attacks took place, the officials said.

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The officials say Mr Mohammed had “radicalised and motivated” the Kashmiri school dropout who rammed a car laden with explosives into the convoy on Thursday.

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