Day after attack, Amarnath Yatra continues with a new batch of pilgrims leaving Jammu today
Srinagar: The bodies of seven Amarnath pilgrims killed in a terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday evening were brought to Surat in Gujarat on Tuesday afternoon on a special plane. Most of the 19 people injured and other passengers of the bus that was attacked were also on the plane, as was its driver Sheikh Saleem Gafoor Bhai who kept driving as the terrorists fired. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani was at the Surat airport and praised Saleem for saving many lives, also announcing a reward for him.
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At about 8.20 on Monday evening, terrorists surrounded the bus on three sides and opened fire. Seven people, five of them women, were killed and 19 people were injured, many critically. Five of those killed were from Gujarat and two were from Maharashtra.
Admitting a security lapse, Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Nirmal Singh told NDTV, "Yes, definitely this is a big lapse. We have to enquire why the bus left at 5pm, why it was allowed after sunset. We were told there was a tyre burst and the driver took time to replace it."
A series of high-level meetings are being held in Delhi to review security. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh met top officials at his home this morning. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval briefed PM Modi on the situation in Valley after the attack, reported news agency PTI, citing sources. Army chief General Bipin Rawat is in Srinagar on to review security situation.
A bandh has been called in Jammu today to protest against the attack, one of the worst terror strikes in Jammu and Kashmir. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has called the attack "an assault on our values and traditions" and said, "The head of every Kashmiri hangs in shame."
A letter from a top police officer to other security officials had warned of an intelligence alert that said "terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims... with the purpose of flaring communal tension in the country."
The police said the bus was not part of the official Amarnath Yatra tour and the pilgrims travelling in it had not registered, important security details. Vehicles that are part of the official Yatra are escorted by security forces to the shrine and back. Yatra buses are also banned from travelling after 7 pm. The bus attacked had been delayed because of a breakdown.
The 40-day-long Yatra to the cave of Amarnath high in the mountains of South Kashmir commenced on June 28. About a lakh have already visited the shrine this year. The pilgrimage takes place every year under tight security that includes about 40,000 troops guarding the route and a satellite tracking system.