Srinagar: Seven pilgrims on the Amarnath Yatra - six of them women - were killed on Monday in a terror attack in Anantnag at about 8:30 pm. At least 19 people were injured in one the worst terror strikes in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- 19 pilgrims injured as terrorists opened fire on their bus
- Bus was not part of main Amarnath yatra convoy
- Terrorists also fired at a police party in Anantnag
Terrorists opened fire on a bus with the pilgrims who were returning after visiting the holy shrine that is located in a narrow gorge at the end of a valley nearly 50 km from Pahalgam.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said in a statement: "This is an assault on our values and traditions which we hold dear. We will leave no stone unturned to root out the perpetrators of this heinous crime." She visited the injured at a hospital in Anantnag.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "Pained beyond words on the dastardly attack on peaceful Amarnath Yatris in J&K. The attack deserves strongest condemnation from everyone... India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and the evil designs of hate."
The bus that was fired on was registered in Gujarat. Police sources said that it had violated the rules of the pilgrimage which bans buses from travelling on a highway after 7 pm for security reasons. Ms Mufti said the bus had apparently broken down, delaying their return.
The bus was also reportedly not part of the official tour for the Yatra which means that it was not given the customary police protection.
The Press Trust of India said the terrorists - it is not clear how many there were - first opened fire an armoured police car whose occupants fired back. The pilgrims were then hit as the terrorists fired indiscriminately, the news agency said.
"We were sleeping when the firing started from both the sides. We don't know how many people were there," said a passenger.
Before that, the same terrorists had reportedly opened fire on a security checkpost just 600 metres from where the bus was attacked.
The journey begins usually from Jammu, which is 200 km from the shrine.
The 40-day-long Yatra to the cave of Amarnath high in the mountains of South Kashmir commenced on June 28.
With unprecedented security including a satellite tracking system and about 40,000 troops assigned to guard the pilgrims and their route.
At the time, according to the Press Trust of India, a letter from a top police officer to other security officials warned of an intelligence alert that said "terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 200 police officers and officials."
The letter said the attack could target a Yatra convoy "which they believe will result in flaring of communal tensions throughout the nation."
The letter by the police officer said further corroboration of the intel input was needed.
The security cover for the Yatra includes soldiers from paramilitary forces, the army, the Border Security Force and the Jammu and Kashmir police.