NEW DELHI — India’s anti-terrorism agency named a Pakistan-based militant leader as the prime mastermind of a 2019 car bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian soldiers and brought the nuclear-armed rivals to the brink of war.
The National Investigation Agency filed a charge sheet on Tuesday that named Masood Azhar, chief of Jaish-e-Mohammed, and 19 others among the accused.
“The investigation has revealed that the Pulwama attack was the result of a well-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by Pakistan-based leadership of terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammad,” the document says.
Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is based in Pakistan, had claimed responsibility for the bombing, according to media reports, even though the attacker was identified as a Kashmiri militant. A prerecorded nine-minute video, circulated on social media, showed the purported attacker in combat clothes and surrounded by guns and grenades hours before he rammed an explosives-laden van into a paramilitary convoy.
The Feb. 14, 2019, bombing was the single deadliest attack in the divided region, and escalated tensions between India and Pakistan. In response, India launched an airstrike against suspected militant training camps inside Pakistan, saying it hit one and killed “a very large number” of militants. Pakistan said the strike only damaged three trees in a forest.
Islamabad then responded by shooting down an Indian warplane and capturing a pilot, who was then returned to India as a peace gesture.
India has long accused Pakistan of cultivating militant groups in a proxy war against New Delhi. Pakistan denies the charge.
The conflict in Kashmir dates back to the late 1940s, when India and Pakistan won independence from Britain and fought two wars over the Himalayan region.
The Associated Press