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Kashmir top cop had warned of ‘sensational’ strike against Amarnath yatris

Two days before the annual Amarnath pilgrimage began, Kashmir IG  Muneer Khan in a letter said terrorists could attack the pilgrims to create communal tension.

Kashmir Turmoil Updated: Jul 11, 2017 13:49 IST
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Jammu
Amarnath,Terror attack,Amarnath Yatra
Sadhus wait to register themselves for the Amarnath pilgrimage at a base camp in Jammu on Friday. (PTI photo)

Kashmir’s top police officer Muneer Khan had in a letter to security forces on June 27 warned of terrorists planning a sensational attack on Amarnath pilgrims to stoke communal tensions, asking security forces to remain vigilant.

Seven pilgrims were killed on Monday night when terrorists fired at a bus-full of devotees returning from the Hindu shrine in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

“Intelligence input received from SSP Anantnag reveals that terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers and officials,” inspector general Khan had said in the letter shared with the Central Reserve Police Force and the range DIGs in the border state.

The letter was sent two days before the 40-day annual pilgrimage started.

The attack on the bus at Batengoo has raised questions about the security arrangements and drill as buses are not allowed to move in the night in the wake of terror threat.

The bus was hit at 8.20pm on the heavily guarded national highway that connects the Valley to the rest of country. The highway has been targeted by militants several times.

“The attack may be in the form of stand-off fire on yatra convoy which they believe will result in flaring of communal tensions throughout the nation,” said the letter also sent to the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps, which is responsible for guarding the line of control in the Kashmir Valley.

Munir said the inputs needed to be verified but the possibility of a sensational attack by a terrorist outfit couldn’t be ruled out.

He had tried to play down the warning when the letter was shared on popular messaging service WhatsApp, saying there was no need to panic as it was part of information being shared with agencies to check its authenticity.

DGP SP Vaid had said someone shared it on social media to create panic.

But, the fears did come true on Monday night.

The 40-day annual pilgrimage, popularly known as Amarnath Yatra, started on June 29 and ends August 7.

The government said more than 35,000 troops were being deployed to protect the twin pilgrimage routes. This year, police are using drone-mounted surveillance cameras, jammers, dog squads, bullet-proof bunkers, satellite tracking devices and other gadgets to secure the pilgrimage in view of increased militancy and violence in Kashmir.

Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, Amarnath shrine stands at 3,888 metres, 46km from Pahalgam and 14km from Baltal from where the bus was returning.

First Published: Jul 11, 2017 09:52 IST