Pakistan on Thursday described the terror attack on Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama as “a matter of grave concern” and rejected any involvement in it. The Jaish-e-Mohammed militant outfit claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force.

This was one of the worst terror strikes in the state since the attack on the Uri military base in September 2016, in which 18 Army jawans had died and dozens were injured.

“We have always condemned heightened acts of violence in the Valley,” said the Pakistan Foreign Office in a statement on Thursday night. “We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations.”

Earlier, India’s Ministry of External Affairs demanded that Pakistan stop allowing terror groups to operate from its territory. It also urged the United Nations to list Jaish-e-Mohammed’s chief Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist. Azhar has been “given full freedom by Government of Pakistan to operate and expand his terror infrastructure in territories under the control of Pakistan and to carry out attacks in India and elsewhere with impunity”, said the ministry.

India is committed and resolved to taking all measures to safeguard national security and fight terrorism, the statement said, asking Islamabad to “dismantle the infrastructure operated by terrorist outfits to launch attacks in other countries”.

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised that the sacrifices of the CRPF jawans will not go in vain. “The entire nation stands shoulder to shoulder with the families of the brave martyrs,” he had tweeted.

Pulwama-based militant Adil Ahmad, who joined the Jaish-e-Mohammed last year, drove an explosive-laden vehicle into a bus that was part of a CRPF convoy on its way to Srinagar from Jammu. More than 2,500 CRPF personnel were travelling in the convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed at Latoomode in Awantipora on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. Many of the soldiers were returning from leave and rejoining duty in the Valley. The bus that was attacked belonged to the 54th battalion of the CRPF and had 44 personnel on board.

A senior police officer confirmed that there was a police input about possible IED attacks but said it was not specific. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to visit Srinagar on Friday.

Anti-Pakistan protests rock Jammu

Several anti-Pakistan protests and candlelight marches were held in Jammu on Thursday, PTI reported. The protestors raised anti-Pakistan and anti-terrorist slogans and demanded that the government take action against Pakistan for “sponsoring terrorism in the Valley”.

The protests took place in Jewel Chowk, Purani Mandi, Rehari, Janipur, Gandhinagar, Bakshi Nagar, Muthi, Talab Tilloo and Satwari areas of Jammu. Several members of the Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and the Dogra Front participated in large numbers. The Bajrang Dal said it will hold demonstrations across the state on Friday.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association suspended work in all the courts in Jammu, including the High Court and the tribunals, to protest against the “the dastardly acts of frustrated terrorists”, according to an unidentified spokesperson.