Several politicians on Thursday expressed shock and concern hours after at least 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed and several injured in an improvised explosive device attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly condemned the “despicable and dastardly” attack. “The sacrifices of our brave security personnel shall not go in vain,” he tweeted. “The entire nation stands shoulder to shoulder with the families of the brave martyrs.”

President Ram Nath Kovind said, “The entire nation stands united in the fight against the forces of terror and evil.”

Officials said Pulwama-based militant Adil Ahmad, who joined the Jaish-e-Mohammed last year, was the main perpetrator. Ahmad drove an explosive-laden vehicle into a bus in which the CRPF personnel were travelling. The explosion in Goripora area of Awantipora was also followed by a gun fight.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah condemned the “gruesome” terror attack, which has been claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammed. Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “No words are enough to condemn the gruesome terror attack. How many more lives will be snuffed out before this madness ends?”

The Peoples Democratic Party chief also urged the National Democratic Alliance-led central government as well as political parties to unite and find a solution to end bloodshed in the state, ANI reported. “I don’t have enough words to condemn this attack,” she said. “Border skirmishes and surgical strikes are leading to nothing.”

Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Terrible news coming from the valley. I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. My prayers for the injured and condolences to the families of the bereaved.”

Governor Satya Pal Malik said the attack appeared to be guided from across the border, from Pakistan, ANI reported. “The Governor observed that forces responsible for insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir are desperate and frustrated and just want to prove their presence,” said the Jammu and Kashmir Raj Bhawan public relations officer.

The officer added that Malik asked all commanders of the security forces to enhance surveillance on every front. He also directed the district and divisional civil and police administration to immediately review the security management of all important installations and establishments in the state.

Union minister Arun Jaitley described the “condemnable” attack as an act of “cowardice” by terrorists. “They will be given an unforgettable lesson for their heinous act,” he said.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who will visit Srinagar on Friday, said the “dastardly attack” was “extremely painful and disturbing”. “I bow to each and every CRPF jawan who has sacrificed his life in service to the nation,” tweeted the Home Minister’s Office, adding that Governor Satya Pal Malik, CRPF director general, and the home secretary had apprised Singh of the situation.

“The MHA is closely monitoring the situation,” it said.

Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said the government would avenge the “cowardly” terror attack. “We will definitely give a befitting response to this cowardly attack, tt will not go unpunished,” Rijiju said in a tweet in Hindi. “We will avenge it in every possible way.”

Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah said he was “pained beyond words” by the terror attack. “Our forces will remain firm against such acts of terror and defeat them,” he tweeted.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi said he was deeply disturbed by the “cowardly attack”. “My condolences to the families of our martyrs,” he tweeted. “I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.”

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the incident was the 18th big terror attack in the last five years under the Narendra Modi-led government, ANI reported. “When will the 56-inch chest reply?” he said, referring to the prime minister.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra demanded that the government take concrete steps to ensure such terror attacks do not happen in the future, PTI reported. “I can very well understand the pain and grief of losing a loved one in the family,” she said in a statement.

Vadra said there was a need to reflect and be concerned about the “high number” of casualties in Kashmir. She added that the entire country was standing shoulder to shoulder with the families of the brave soldiers.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she was “saddened” by the explosion. “We salute our brave jawans and extend our solidarity and condolences to their families,” said the Trinamool Congress chief in a tweet. “Our prayers for those injured.”

Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli spoke to Modi and expressed his condolences and concern over the attack.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “I strongly condemn the terror attack on the CRPF convoy in which many casualties are feared. India must stand united in this moment of grief.”

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said the cowardly attack on the CRPF jawans was a condemnable act. “My condolences to the families of the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for India,” he tweeted.