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 that claimed responsibility for Friday's attack, the deadliest on Indian security forces in decades.

The attack has fuelled tensions between India and Pakistan. India has demanded Pakistan close down Jaish-e-Mohammad 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.

Advertisement

Representatives of India's National Investigating Agency questioned the suspects about the bombing, 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 group 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 say Umair had "radicalised and motivated" the Kashmiri school dropout who rammed a car laden with explosives into the convoy.

Umair is thought to have entered Indian Kashmir from Pakistan in September to head the Jaish in the region.

Security forces suspect he is in hiding in southern Kashmir, according to the officials, who could not be named as a matter of policy.

Indian officials say Umair is a nephew of Jaish-e-Mohammad's chief, Masood Azhar, who is believed to be in Pakistan.

Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, has promised a strong response to the attack and says he has given the military a free hand to tackle cross-border militancy.

Advertisement
Members of various Indian Hindu organisations light candles as they pay tribute to the Indian soldiers killed.
Members of various Indian Hindu organisations light candles as they pay tribute to the Indian soldiers killed.