Cops say LeT terrorist from Pak behind attack on Amarnath pilgrims | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Cops say LeT terrorist from Pak behind attack on Amarnath pilgrims

The Kashmir inspector general of police said preliminary investigations revealed that a Pakistani militant Ismail was the mastermind behind the terrorist act.

Kashmir Turmoil Updated: Jul 16, 2017 21:06 IST
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria and Toufiq Rashid
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A security person stands guard as pilgrims leave for the Amarnath Yatra. At least seven pilgrims returning from the remote Himalayan shrine of Amarnath were shot dead and several wounded when militants opened fired on their bus as well as a security vehicle on Monday. (PTI)

A terrorist attack on a bus that killed seven Amarnath Yatra pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag was planned by a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative from Pakistan, the state’s top police official said on Tuesday.

“Initial investigation has revealed that the attack was carried out by Lashkar and a Pakistani militant Ismail is behind it. The investigation is on,” Kashmir inspector general of police Muneer Khan told Hindustan Times.

Terrorists attacked a bus in Anantnag around 8:20pm, killing seven and injuring 19 others, four of them seriously. More than 60 pilgrims, many of them from Gujarat, were returning from Baltal after paying obeisance at the cave shrine when the bus was attacked.

Previous attacks on Amarnath pilgrims:
  • August 1, 2000: Over 30 people were killed by militants at Pahalgam base camp
  • July 20, 2001: 13 people were killed and 15 wounded in an attack by terrorists at Sheshnag, halfway along the route to the cave-shrine. Six pilgrims and five porters were among the dead
  • August 6, 2002: Nine pilgrims were gunned down and 30 others wounded in their sleep at Nunwan camp near Pahalgam
  • Other incidents
  • 2012: At least 16 pilgrims were killed and 16 others injured when a truck carrying them plunged into a gorge near Zamoorha Morh in Mansar belt of Samba district
  • 1996: At least 242 pilgrims died after they were caught in a snow blizzard.

Of the seven dead, five belonged to Gujarat and two were from Maharashtra. The four critically injured pilgrims are likely to be shifted to Delhi for specialised treatment in a Border Security Force (BSF) plane.

On Tuesday a fresh batch of 3,289 Amarnath pilgrims left in a convoy of 105 vehicles from the Yatri Niwas base in Jammu for the cave shrine at 3:15am amid tight security in the region.

A Central Reserve Police Force officer said that following the attack, the CRPF in tandem with the Indian Army has tightened the security in the region.

“Though the security arrangements are adequate, we revisit the security grid whenever such incidents happen. An alert has already been issued and security has been heightened at the Yatri Niwas Base camp in Jammu and all along the 294-km long Jammu-Srinagar national highway,” the officer said.

“The convoy of the yatris is escorted by armed CRPF commandos and the 294 km long highway from Jammu to Srinagar is largely guarded by the CRPF and in some stretches by the army,” he said, adding that the pilgrims were allowed to leave from Jammu only after a nod by the road opening parties of CRPF and army that guard the highway.

Shutdown in Kashmir

Various political, social, religious organisations such as the Panthers Party, National Conference, Congress, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry and J-K High Court Bar Association have called for the complete shutdown across the region.

Schools and other educational institutions, which opened this morning, had to call off their classes and inform parents of the children over phones to pick their wards.

“Owing to prevailing circumstances because of the attack on Amarnath Yatris, the authorities have asked us to keep the school shut from Tuesday to Thursday,” a teacher of an elite school in Jammu said.

This correspondent came across harried parents rushing to pick their children from schools.

Jammu deputy commissioner Rajeev Ranjan told HT that educational institutions in the district shall remain closed for the next two days as a preventive measure.

Paramilitary and police personnel have also been deployed in the sensitive areas in Jammu to avoid any untoward incident.

Soon after the attack, a protest erupted in Samba town on the Jammu-Pathankot highway, which was blocked by angry protestors for over an hour. They shouted slogans against the PDP-BJP government, especially against the BJP, for its failure to protect the pilgrims despite intelligence alerts and IGP’s letter of a possible attack on the pilgrims.

Just weeks ago, intelligence agencies had warned that militants were planning to target 100 policemen and as many Amarnath pilgrims to trigger communal violence.

The state government has suspended mobile internet services across Jammu region to check rumour on social media platforms. Only broadband internet services are functional in Jammu.

A police officer told HT over the phone that fearing a backlash across Jammu region, Kashmir-bound trucks were stopped at Lakhanpur, the gateway to the state and then sent back to Punjab.

CRPF’S inspector general (operations) Zulfikar Hasan visited Batingo on Tuesday morning and took stock of the crime scene. Hasan said that while the terror attack on the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims is being investigated, the pilgrimage will go on peacefully.

“It is being investigated by the Jammu and Kashmir Police. It will take some time but we will nab the culprits,” he added.