- Tourists told to cut short their stay in Kashmir amid terror threats
- Thousands left scrambling for air tickets, confusion at Srinagar airport
- Avoid "all but essential travel to Srinagar," Britain told its citizens
Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom on Saturday asked their citizens to avoid all travel to Jammu and Kashmir, a day after the government asked tourists and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to "immediately" cut short their stay and return, in an unprecedented advisory amid intelligence inputs of terror threats.
"There is a risk of unpredictable violence, including bombings, grenade attacks, shootings and kidnapping," the British foreign office said, advising against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir with the exceptions of travel by air to Jammu and within the city, and within the region of Ladakh.
Listing out the recent terror attacks in Kashmir, Britain advised against "all but essential travel to the city of Srinagar and travel between the cities of Jammu and Srinagar on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway", and also advised against travel to the tourist destinations of Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonmarg. "If you're in Jammu and Kashmir, you should remain vigilant, follow the advice of local authorities and keep up to date with developments, including via this travel advice," the advisory said.
Thousands of tourists which include foreigners, pilgrims, students and labourers from other parts of the country started leaving the Kashmir Valley on Friday after the government notification asked them to return home.
"Travelers staying in Kashmir (especially the Kashmir Valley and the Amaranath Yatra Pilgrimage Route) are advised to leave Jammu and Kashmir," the German ministry of foreign affairs said.
Australia also asked its citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution in India because of the high threat of terrorist activity", news agency ANI reported.
The advisory has left tourists scrambling to get air tickets, leading to confusion at the Srinagar airport as they rushed there. Several airlines have decided to give full fee waiver on rescheduling or cancellation of flights to and from Srinagar till August 15, when the Amarnath Yatra was supposed to end.
The Jammu and Kashmir tourism department sent buses on Friday, immediately after the advisory was issued, to different tourist destinations to bring the tourists back to Srinagar, the department's chief said.
The centre's advisory is seen as an unprecedented move as pilgrims and tourists have never before, even at the height of militancy, been urged to leave Kashmir, which has seen a massive build-up of troops over the past week.
Local residents formed long lines outside petrol stations, food stores and ATMs on Friday night after the alert was announced. But the queues eased Saturday.