- 7 killed after terrorists opened fire on bus of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims
- More than 100 empty cartridges were found at the attack site
- Lashkar terrorists led by Pakistani Abu Ismail behind attack: police
A day after seven pilgrims, mostly women, were killed in one of the worst terror attacks in Kashmir in recent times, investigations were focused on gaps in security at a heavily protected area just 200 metres from an army installation.
Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists led by Pakistani Abu Ismail were behind the attack, senior police officer Munir Khan said in Kashmir.
More than 100 empty cartridges were found at the attack site, which, sources said, indicates that the terrorists were prepped for a massacre of pilgrims returning from the Amarnath Yatra, an annual pilgrimage taken by thousands and acknowledged widely as a potent symbol of religious harmony.
According to the sequence pieced together by the police and intelligence agencies, the bus was first attacked near a petrol pump less than two km from where it had broken down.
When driver Saleem heard firing on the right side of the bus, he kept moving to an auto workshop 75 metres ahead. The bus was attacked again near a police check-post a few hundred metres away. Saleem didn't stop until he spotted an army camp, saving the lives of over 50 bus-riders.
The bus was not supposed to travel after dark because of heavy security restrictions around the annual Amarnath Yatra, say officials, but it was apparently delayed by a flat tyre. Still, it was not stopped at check-posts. Since it was not registered with the official yatra convoy, the bus also did not have the usual police escort.
Calling it a "big lapse", Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh told NDTV: "We have to enquire why the bus left at 5 pm, why it was allowed after sunset. We were told there was a tyre burst and the driver took time to replace it."
This morning, more than 3,000 pilgrims headed for Amarnath, many of them saying nothing would stop them from completing their pilgrimage. The number of vehicles escorting them has been increased by half.
A letter from a senior police officer to other security officials on June 25 had warned of an intelligence input 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."