'The Terrorists Attacked Old People,' Rages Son of Amarnath Pilgrim Killed

The pilgrims had offered prayers at the Amarnath shrine last Friday and, after a day of sightseeing in Srinagar, were traveling to Jammu when the terrorists struck near Anantnag

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'The Terrorists Attacked Old People,' Rages Son of Amarnath Pilgrim Killed

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Bharat Patel, Laxmi Ben's son, said his mother was an Amarnath Yatra veteran.

Dahanu, Maharashtra:  The terrorists who fired on a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday evening had attacked seniors, all people above 50 years old, said an angry Bharat Patel in Gujarat's Valsad today. His mother, Laxmi Bai, was one of the seven people killed in the terror attack. Her body will reach home later today.

"These terrorists have attacked old people. All of them are 50 or above...They should wear bangles and sit at home," said Mr Patel, who is in his thirties and runs a business in Valsad, from where the bus carrying the pilgrims had left for Kashmir on July 2.

Laxmi Bai, 50, was an Amarnath Yatra veteran. This was her 16th trip, her son said, and she catered food for the pilgrims who traveled from Valsad.

The pilgrims had offered prayers at the Amarnath shrine last Friday and, after a day of sightseeing in Srinagar, were traveling to Jammu when the terrorists struck near Anantnag, surrounding the bus from three sides as they opened fire.

The driver of the bus, Sheikh Salim Gafoor Bhai, who too is from Valsad, kept driving in the dark through the hail of bullets and, passengers said, saved many lives. Many passengers were asleep when the terrorists struck.

Of the seven people killed, five were women, two of them from  Dahanu in neighbouring Maharashtra.

Usha Sonkar, 56, was visiting the famous shrine for the first time. She talked to her husband  Mohanlal Sonkar on the phone last about two hours before the bus was attacked.

"The trip was a success and she was feeling blessed," 58 year old Mr Sonkar said, adding, "I have lost everything. To me she was everything."

Mr Sonkar is a fruit-merchant from Dahanu, about 135 km from Mumbai. A group of 12 people from Dahanu had traveled on the bus, among them his wife and Nirmala Ben, who also died in the attack.

Nirmala Ben, 50, loved to travel and went for a pilgrimage every year, her husband Bharat Thakur said. This year, it was Amarnath.

Mr Thakur, 60, sat up through last night hoping to hear that his wife had survived the attack. He got a call at 6 in the morning from a BSF officer who told him, "She died on the spot."

Mr Thakur is devastated. "I have lost my wife. What can the government do? Kashmir has been burning and it seems it will continue to burn," he said.

The bodies of the seven people killed were flown to Surat, the airport closest to Valsad, by a special plane today. Many of the 19 people injured in the attack also returned along with other passengers who had traveled on the bus and the driver Saleem.

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