JAMMU / DELHI: At least seven people died and 19 others were injured after terrorists attacked a bus ferrying Amarnath Yatra pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, July 10 night.
The attack took place at around 8.20 pm near Khanabal Anantnag district where terrorists first attacked two police posts before fleeing and then opening fire at the bus that was carrying a group of pilgrims who had finished the Amarnath Yatra two days ago.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who spent the night in Anantnag among the survivors of the attack, decried the terrorist strike, saying Kashmiris’ heads hang in shame, reports India Today.
The attack on the bus (GJ 09 Z 9976) was part of a series of strikes that first targeted security personnel. Terrorists first fired upon a bullet-proof police bunker in Botengoo. When they faced resistance, the militants fled and subsequently attacked a police picket near Khannabal.
There, they opened indiscriminate fire after policemen posted at the picket retaliated to the attack. It was then that the bus, which was from Gujarat, came under the terrorists’ fire, leading to the deaths of seven pilgrims – five from Gujarat and two from Maharashtra.
BUS NOT REGISTERED
The bus, which was registered in Gujarat’s Sabarkantha district, was not registered with the Amarnath Shrine Board and was not part of a pilgrim convoy, the Central Reserve Police Force said in a statement.
According to officials, the pilgrims on the bus had finished their yatra two days ago and had subsequently moved to Srinagar. On Monday, the bus, which was without a police escort, was transporting them from Srinagar to Jammu when the pilgrims became a target of the attack.
Officials also said that the bus had violated the 7 pm highway curfew for Amarnath yatris. Security cover for Amarnath Yatra convoys is withdrawn after 7 pm and no buses carrying pilgrims are supposed to be commuting on a highway.
The deceased from Gujarat were identified as Hasuben Ratila Patal, Surakha Ben and Lakshimiben S Patal from Valsad, Ratan Zeena Bhai Patal of Daman and Prajapati Champaben of Navsari. Those from Maharashtra were Nirmala Ben Thakor, a resident of Palghar, and Usha Mohanla Sonkar of Danu.
A bandh has been called in Jammu today to protest against the attack, one of the worst terror strikes in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Jammu bandh call was supported by the opposition National Conference, which called the attack part of a nefarious design to vitiate the secular fabric of Jammu and Kashmir.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is holding a meeting at his home in Delhi to review security. In Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Narinder Nath Vohra will chair a meeting to review security for the Amarnath Yatra, which has only once before been attacked by terrorists, in August 2000.
The Amarnath Yatra continues with a new batch of about 3,000 pilgrims leaving Jammu on Tuesday, July 11 morning for the remote shrine at the end of a Valley about 200 km from Jammu, reports NDTV.
Zulfiqar Hasan, IG (Operations) for the Central Reserve Police Force visited the attack site today morning and confirmed that the Amarnath Yatra will continue. “We will ensure that it goes on peacefully,” Hasan said, adding that the Jammu and Kashmir police is investigating Monday night’s attack on the bus.
Security vehicles escorting them have been doubled.
Musafir Namah Bureau, with agencies