Little-known group claims responsibility for Vaishno Devi bus fire, cops unsure
JAMMU: Even as a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday inspected the passenger bus that was gutted near Katra town, a letter purportedly issued by a hitherto unknown terror outfit has claimed the responsibility of the attack and called it an “IED blast carried out by the special squad of Jammu and Kashmir Freedom Fighters’”.
The letter went viral on social media sites late Saturday.
Four persons were killed and 25 others injured when the moving bus, mostly ferrying devotees, caught fire near Kharmal, about 1.5 km from Katra, shortly after leaving for Jammu on Friday.
Issued by one Nadeem Choudary, the spokesperson of the purported terror outfit ‘Jammu and Kashmir Freedom Fighters’, the letter said that a “special squad of Jammu and Kashmir Freedom Fighters’ carried out an IED blast at Kharmal Katra on a bus carrying non-locals.”
It further said, “In the guise of religious pilgrimage this Hindutva regime is trying its best to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir. But we will sabotage their filthy propaganda at every level. This attack is linked to a series of bombings carried out by our special squad at Jammu, Udhampur and Rajouri areas. We warn the non locals who are used as cannon fodder by this Hindutva regime not to visit the disputed territory.”
The concluding part said, “we also warn the minority community of Jammu to make a safe distance from such non local elements and Hindutva agents. Our attacks will continue on such targets in future”.
A senior police officer said that police was investigating the case but they can’t vouch for the veracity of this letter.
“Further, there is no such terror outfit by such a name in J&K but we are looking into the case from all possible angles,” he said.
HT doesn’t vouch for the veracity of this letter.
On Saturday afternoon, the NIA team comprising explosives experts inspected the site for over an hour and collected samples.
The four deceased in the bus tragedy were identified as Laxmi, in her 30s, from Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh; Meena Devi, 40, of Pamote village in Katra; Bagheswar Chouhan, 55, of Gazipur in UP and his three-year-old grandson Shivam Chouhan.
Reasi SSP Amit Gupta said, “All the four dead have been identified. While bodies of two of them have been sent to their native places, the kin of the other two are on their way to Katra to collect their mortal remains.” The police officer said no terror angle has come to the fore so far.
“FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) and IB (Intelligence Bureau) teams were there, along with the police. We have collected all the evidence, but there is no such conclusion (of terror angle) so far. The probe is on,” he added.
Medical superintendent of government medical college and hospital in Jammu, Dr ADS Manhas, said, “A woman with 82% burns is in ICU, while two other patients were operated upon this morning. Two more are lined up for the surgical procedure. The remaining 16 are stable.”
The Jammu and Kashmir Congress committee has sought an in-depth probe into the Katra bus tragedy. Terming the incident shocking and heart-wrenching, its chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said an investigation was previously ordered in the New Year Vaishno Devi stampede as well, but neither its report witnessed light of the day nor any action was shown to have been taken.
National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah and vice-president Omar Abdullah expressed profound grief over the loss of lives. “It is expected that the departments concerned will depute a team to ascertain the causes behind the tragedy,” they said.