Amarnath yatra attack Highlights: J-K govt says bus carrying pilgrims was attacked twice
At least seven pilgrims returning from the Amarnath shrine were killed on Monday night in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district after terrorists opened fire on their bus and a security vehicle.
The attack occurred at Batengoo when 60-70 pilgrims were returning from Baltal, one of the base camps of the pilgrimage, to Jammu. Deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh said the bodies of the victims – all of whom were from Gujarat – would be airlifted to state on Tuesday.
Political leaders condemned the attack, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying India would not be “bogged down” by such “cowardly” acts. In a joint statement, separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik expressed grief over the killings, saying the incident “goes against the very grain of Kashmiri ethos”.
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7:53 pm: Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi condemns attack on Amarnath pilgrims.
“It was clearly stated that the terrorists intended to launch an attack on Amarnath pilgrims. Now, it is for the government to answer. Even after an intelligence input, what steps were taken to provide security,” he says.
7:50 pm: Army chief general Bipin Rawat meets J&K governor NN Vohra in Srinagar.
7:23 pm: In a two-page report sent to the Union home ministry, the Jammu and Kashmir government says the bus carrying the Amarnath pilgrims was attacked twice in quick succession by two teams of terrorists, who escaped after spraying bullets from automatic rifles.
The bus was first attacked around 8:17 pm and another group of terrorist opened fire after just 75 meters of travel.
6:42 pm: MoS PMO Jitendra Singh and MoS home Hansraj Ahir meet the injured at SKIMS Hospital in Srinagar.
“This is an assault on Kashmir’s composite culture, this Yatra is a symbol of this composite culture,” says Singh.
6:15 pm: Centre announces Rs 7 lakh compensation to next of kin of those killed in Amarnath attack, Rs 1 lakh each for those injured.
5:52 pm: France condemns attack on Amarnath pilgrims.
5:39 pm: Bodies of two AmarnathYatra pilgrims brought to Palghar in Maharashtra.
5:28 pm: Opposition National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah apologises to the people of the country for the attack on Amarnath yatris, saying those “who fired upon innocents were not Muslims”.
5:26 pm: Left parties say the attack was aimed at deepening communal divide and demanded that the culprits be brought to book
4:49 pm: VHP says the attack on Amarnath yatris was a result of Modi government’s failure to end terrorism in Kashmir in its three years of rule.
4: 45 pm: President Pranab Mukherjee strongly condemns attack on Amarnath pilgrims, asks the J&K government and other agencies concerned to ensure that the guilty were brought to justice.
4:43 pm: Home minister Rajnath Singh hails the people of Kashmir for their unequivocal condemnation of the terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims.
“The people of Kashmir have strongly condemned the terror attack on Amarnath yatris. It shows the spirit of Kashmiriyat is very much alive,” Singh tweets.
4:49 pm: US condemns the attack on Amarnath pilgrims.
“We deplore the attack on #Amarnath pilgrims & condemn all acts of terrorism. Deepest condolences to the families & all those affected,” the US ambassador’s official Twitter handle posted.
4:34 pm: Amnesty condemns terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims, says it shows “utter contempt” for human life.
4:26 pm: J&K government decides to award Rs 3 lakhs to bus driver Saleem Mirza. Governor NN vohra, who is also the chairman of Amarnath Shrine board, also announces reward of Rs 2 lakhs in his name.
4:16 pm: Massive protests against the attack on Amarnath pilgrims rock Jammu division. Protestors, from various parties including the Congress, JKNPP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena, block highways at several places in Jammu, Udhampur, Kathua and Samba districts.
3:41 pm: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina writes to PM Modi denouncing the attack and reaffirms Bangladesh’s pledge to work with India in fighting extremism.
“I am deeply shocked to learn about the dastardly terror attack on a bus carrying pilgrims to Amarnath in Jammu and Kashmir that killed several pilgrims, including women, and injuring many others on Monday,” she says in the letter.
3:15pm: “Nothing will happen by just condemning the attack. There is a need to teach a lesson to the terrorists,” says Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut. “The Centre had said demonetisation will affect miltancy in Kashmir but nothing of that sort happened. Neither did the surgical strike make any difference.”
3:12pm: Jammu and Kashmir government announces Rs 6 lakh compensation for kin of those killed in the attack and Rs 2 lakh for the injured.
2:50pm: Srinagar tour and travel operators protest against the attack.
2:38pm: Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani says he will nominate the driver of the bus, Salim Sheikh, for a bravery award.
2:35pm: No one should play politics over the attack. Govt will need to answer certain questions,if not today then tomorrow: Asaduddin Owaisi.
2:30pm: The Uttar Pradesh assembly passes a unanimous resolution condemning the attack. “Officers have been asked to remain alert so that no unscrupulous element takes benefit and vitiates the atmosphere,” chief minister Yogi Adityanath says.
2:28pm: The attack on the pilgrims signifies the rise of religious extremism within the ranks of the militants: CPI-M
2:25pm: German ambassador to India, while condemning the attack, says, “I convey our deepest condolences to the families of the victims. Germany resolutely stands by India in the fight against terrorism and extremism. As the G20 leaders just reaffirmed in Hamburg, we are resolved to tackle terrorism as a common challenge to the global community.”
2:22pm: “Such wanton acts of violence can have no justification. The perpetrators and those who support and shelter them should be punished for this crime against humanity,” says vice-president Hamid Ansari.
2:10pm: Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Russia condemn the terrorist attack.
2:05pm: Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh asks pilgrims to continue with their plans of Amarnath pilgrimage. “I want to assure the nation that the government is alert. We are not taking any chances.”
2:00pm: “The Centre needs to answer that why despite intelligence inputs, precautionary measures were not taken,” says CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
1:53pm: “Amarnath Yatra is a symbol of Kashmiriyat, so this attack is cowardly and highly condemnable,” Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tells ANI. “They have attacked the Kashmiriyat of India.Innocent bhajan singing devotees were killed. Security forces are taking action.”
1:50pm: Congress leader Karan Singh says, “Yatra should continue, but such an attack should not take place again. I think governor’s rule should be imposed in Jammu and Kashmir.”
1:39pm:Army chief General Bipin Rawat arrives in Srinagar to take stock of the security situation.
1:35pm: “We deplore the attack on Amarnath pilgrims and condemn all acts of terrorism. Deepest condolences to the families & all those affected,” the US ambassador’s official Twitter post says.
1:33pm: God gave me strength to keep moving, and I just did not stop: Salim, driver of the bus.
1:32pm: Driver of the bus says, “Continous firing was on, so I kept on driving the bus and did not stop.”
1:27pm: Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani meets the injured.
1:26pm: Gujarat government revises compensation from Rs 5 lakh to Rs10 lakh for the kin of those killed.
1:24pm: “We, the leaders, strongly condemn the cowardly and ghastly terrorist attack on Amarnath yatris. This is an attack on humanity... on the plurality and diversity of India. This is an attack on the human values and Kashmiriyat. We call upon the government to use all the resources at its command to bring the real masterminds and perpetrators of this inhuman act to justice,” opposition parties say in a statement.
1:22pm: Minister of state (PMO) Jitendra Singh and minister of state, home, Hansraj Ahir to leave for Srinagar shortly.
1:21pm: Government should introspect on reasons for security failure despite advance information, says Opposition.
1:20pm: 18 opposition parties pass a resolution codemning the terror attack on Amarnath yatris.
1:15pm: “Aircraft is carrying seven bodies and the19 injured who were fit to travel and others who were in the same bus,” says Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani.
1:10pm: Bodies of victims brought to Surat in Gujarat.
12:30 pm: ANI speaks to one of the victim’s son in Mumbai. He said that his mother had mentioned that stones were pelted on the bus few days before the attack and that she had asked her to return home then.
12:00 pm: ANI quotes home minister Rajnath Singh: “Pained at the loss of lives of Amarnath yatra pilgrims, want to salute people of Kashmir where all sections of society condemned it.”
11:50 am: “There has been no lapse, adequate security has been given, yatra has been peaceful for last 15 days. This shouldn’t be called lapse. Security forces have to succeed 100/100 times, terrorists can execute attack even if they succeed once,” ANI quotes Ram Madhav.
Madhav, the party’s point person on Jammu and Kashmir, said the security forces’ operation against terrorists would continue and all efforts made to ensure that the Amarnath yatra continues peacefully.
11:45 am: PTI reports that NSA Ajit Doval has briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the situation in Kashmir in the wake of attack on Amarnath pilgrims.
11:00 am: The Congress party has described the attack as a serious security lapse on part of the government and security forces. Party vice president Rahul Gandhi said India will never be intimidated by “terrorist cowards”. He also tweeted:
Congress leader and spokesman Randeep Surjewala told ANI, “The most important thing that has come out is that the bus was plying at a time when curfew was on. Why was no security cover given to the bus? Should all these security lapses not be examined?”
10:45 am: The Gujarat government has also announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the family of those killed and Rs 2 lakh for those injured. The injured will be given free treatment at Surat’s Kiran Hospital, which was recently inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
10:35 am: CM Mehbooba Mufti and deputy CM Nirmal Singh meet pilgrims injured in the attack and paid tribute to the victims. She called the attack a “blot on all Muslims and Kashmiris”. While visiting the injured in a hospital in Anantnag yesterday, she said the head of every Kashmiri hangs in shame over the incident.
“I have no words to condemn it. I hope the security forces and the Jammu and Kashmir police arrest the perpetrators forthwith and take stern action against them,” the chief minister told reporters.
The meeting at the home minister’s residence has begun.
10:20 am: Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani along with Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani have left for Surat to meet the victims’ families. Three of total seven killed hailed from south Gujarat. The bodies are expected to arrive at Surat airport around 1 pm.
Security has been tightened across the state. Forces have been deployed at airports, railways stations and places of worships.
9:40 am: Initial investigation has revealed that the attack on Amaranth yatra pilgrims was carried out by LeT, masterminded by Pakistani terrorist Ismail, IG Kashmir tells HT.
But the militant group rejected the allegation, calling the attack “reprehensible”, and accusing India of trying to sabotage the freedom struggle of the Kashmiris.
9.35 am: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti calls for a cabinet meeting, reports ANI.
9:30 am: Delhi Police special cell issues advisory to put in place proper anti-terror arrangements where there is high footfall and for Kanwar Yatra, ANI reports.
The DCP has also instructed the local police to put quick reaction teams on the route.
Police sources said commandos will guard the routes across parts of north and north east Delhi, from where Kanwars enter the city. Temporary towers with snipers will also be placed on the route along with SWAT vehicles, which will be able to deal with any situation.
9:20 am: Union minister Venkaiah Naidu says the terrorists involved in the attack on Amarnath pilgrims will not be spared. Speaking to CNN News 18 channel, Naidu says that the bus was not registered with the Amarnath yatra board. “This is something everyone knows, that you are not travel without security and yet this happened. The government is investigating how it did,” the minister says.
“I hope the pilgrims will cooperate by giving advance intimation, information and also follow the protocol of security so that they are all secured,” he said.
9:10 am: A high-level central team led by minister of state for home Hansraj Ahir will also visit Jammu and Kashmir to assess the security of the pilgrimage. Director general of CRPF RR Bhatnagar has already reached Srinagar to review the deployment of the central forces in the pilgrimage route. He will also attend a security review meeting convened by Governor NN Vohra in Srinagar.
8:50 am: The 19 injured and bodies of seven Amarnath pilgrims killed in the terror attack in Kashmir have been airlifted to New Delhi, says PTI. The bodies of the victims will reach Surat later today.
8:20 am: A batch of 3,289 Amarnath yatris left in a convoy of 105 vehicles from the Yatri Niwas base for the cave shrine at 3.15 am on Tuesday amid tight security arrangements.
8:00 am: High-level meet to take place at 9:45 am at home minister Rajnath Singh’s residence. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, top officials of the home ministry, intelligence agencies and central paramilitary forces are also attending the meeting.
The meeting will take stock of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, security of Amarnath pilgrims and how to prevent such possible attacks in the future, official sources told PTI.
7:35 am: Deeply saddened at loss of innocent lives. My thoughts and prayers are with bereaved family members and those injured, ANI quotes presidential candidate Meira Kumar. The NDA’s candidate Ram Nath Kovind called it a ‘cowardly attack’.
7: 33 am: President Pranab Mukherjee tweets his condolences.
7:31 am: CRPF IG (operations) Zulfiqar Hasan says the Amarnath yatra is continuing. “(Attack) is being investigated by Jammu and Kashmir police... Yatra is going on, we will ensure that it goes on peacefully,” ANI reported him as saying .
7:20 am: Security has been tightened in Anantnag. Inspector general (operations) of the Central Reserve Police Force visits the site of the attack.
7:10 am: Mobile data services have been suspended in Jammu . Only BSNL broadband services with limited speed is working, reports ANI.
Terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims
The Central Reserve Police Force, which provides security for the two-month long annual pilgrimage, said gunmen first opened fire on a security checkpoint but no injuries were reported.
The CRPF said in a statement that militants further attacked the pilgrims’ bus at Batengoo and escaped towards Arwani. Batengoo is 65km south of Srinagar. Close to 20 people, including security personnel, were injured.
A New Delhi based security official, speaking anonymously, told AFP that security personnel were exploring “all the angles including suspected Islamists”.
Hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims trek over mountain trails to reach Amarnath caves, around 3,900 metres (12,800 feet) above sea level, in Kashmir every year.
The pilgrimage has previously been the target of militants, with more than 30 pilgrims killed in 2000.
There is heavy presence of security personnel in Kashmir because of militancy in the state. Tensions have also been high around the first anniversary of the death of charismatic rebel leader Burhan Wani, who was shot dead by security forces on July 8 2016.
The death of the 23-year-old, who had built up a big following on social media, sparked a huge outpouring of grief in Kashmir.
(With inputs from agencies)