Amarnath yatra terror attack: Hunt on for Pakistani mastermind Abu Ismail | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Amarnath yatra terror attack: Hunt on for Pakistani mastermind Abu Ismail

Terrorists had attacked a bus full of pilgrims that was travelling back from the Amarnath shrine to Srinagar, killing seven and injuring more than 20 people.

Kashmir Turmoil Updated: Jul 13, 2017 07:38 IST
Rajesh Ahuja and Toufiq Rashid
Security personnel frisk pilgrims and locals on their way to the Amarnath shrine after terrorists attacked a bus, killing seven people, at Nuwun base Camp in South Kashmir on Tuesday.
Security personnel frisk pilgrims and locals on their way to the Amarnath shrine after terrorists attacked a bus, killing seven people, at Nuwun base Camp in South Kashmir on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

A massive hunt is underway in south Kashmir to track down Abu Ismail , the 24-year-old Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) mastermind whose hand is suspected in the Monday night killing of seven Amarnath Yatra pilgrims in Anantnag.

The Jammu and Kashmir police have informed the Union home ministry that Pakistani terrorist Ismail along with three other associates carried out the attack. At least two of his associates are suspected to be local youth. The police also formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Deputy Inspector General (South Kashmir) SP Pani on Wednesday to probe the attack “from all angles” and launch a manhunt to trace the perpetrators.

Speaking to HT, state police chief SP Vaid, said: “Prelimanary investigation has suggested that Abu Ismail was involved in the attack along with three other persons.”

The Police is following intelligence leads regarding Ismail’s associates, hideouts used and communication intercepts. The state police had so far put Ismail in the middle ranked ‘B’ category of terrorists.

Sources in security forces said Ismail is active in the Anantnag and Pampore areas. The LeT’s south Kashmir commander Abu Dujana and two other militants — Abdul Lone and Abdul Hameed — have been described as his associates.

However, the LeT had denied its role in the July 10 attack saying the “attack on pilgrims was against Islamic teachings”.

Retracing the events leading up to Monday night’s attack, the state police has informed the Union home ministry that the ill-fated bus carrying mostly Gujarati pilgrims reached Jammu on July 7 for its onward journey to Baltal via Srinagar. The Yatris usually trek 14 km from Baltal to reach the holy cave.

“On way to Baltal, the bus travelled in the convoy after getting registered at facilitation centre in Jammu. The Yatris did ‘darshan’ on July 8. But on its return journey from Baltal, the bus was not part of any convoy.The passengers halted in Srinagar for the next two days for sightseeing. On July 10, at around 4.40pm the bus left Srinagar for Jammu,” said a home ministry official.

They stopped at Pampore on the outskirts of Srinagar to buy saffron. At it moved ahead, the bus suffered a tyre puncture at 6.30pm when it was around 10km away from Khanabal.

The yatris disembarked and had their dinner and moved around while the puncture was being fixed.

“It is suspected that the movement of Yatris outside the bus come under notice of some overground supporters of militants who might have been hiding nearby looking for targets. Since the bus was not moving in any security convoy, that made it an easy target,” said the official.

The bus was fired upon at 8.20pm at Khanabal, killing seven Yatris, including five women.

Keeping in mind the incident, the home ministry has now asked security forces to deploy road-opening parities till late in the evening as well.

The state police has been asked to proactively pursue groups of yatris to travel with the convoy only.