Amarnath Yatra Terror Attack: What We Know So Far

The Logical Indian Crew

July 11th, 2017

Source: hindustantimes | Image credits: ANI, PTI

[Update: LeT has refuted the claims by IG and said that they were not responsible for the attack.]

At least seven pilgrims returning from the Amarnath Yatra were shot dead in a terror attack in Anantnag district, Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, 10 July. 19 pilgrims were injured. The terrorists fired on the pilgrims’ bus as well as a security vehicle. (Exact casualties are yet to be conclusively reported.)

Initial investigation by the IGP revealed that the attack was carried out by Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The Jammu and Kashmir IGP later added that the attack was carried out by five men and was masterminded by Abu Ismail, an LeT operative from Pakistan.

The attack occurred at 8:20 pm when around 70 pilgrims were returning from Baltal, one of the base camps of the pilgrimage, to Jammu. The pilgrims’ bus was surrounded on three sides by the terrorists near a security checkpost at Anantnag and fired at.

Batengoo village, where the attack occurred, is 65 km south of Srinagar.

Around 1,00,000 pilgrims have already completed the journey to the Amarnath shrine that began late last month and is due to end in late August. The journey begins from Jammu, which is 200 km from the shrine.

All the victims were from Gujarat

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told reporters that all the victims were from Gujarat; five of the dead were women.

The bodies of the deceased and the 19 injured have been airlifted to New Delhi. The victims’ bodies will reach Surat, Gujarat on Tuesday.

Home Minister to chair high-level security meeting

Mobile data services have been suspended in Jammu. Only BSNL broadband services with limited speed is working.

The Amarnath Yathra itself continues, with tighter security arrangements. CRPF escort vehicles have been increased by 50%. A high-level central team led by minister of state for home Hansraj Ahir will also visit Jammu and Kashmir to assess the security of the pilgrimage.

A high-level meeting will also take place at Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s residence. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, top officials of the home ministry, intelligence agencies and central paramilitary forces are also attending the meeting. The meeting will take stock of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, security of Amarnath pilgrims and how to prevent such possible attacks in the future, official sources told PTI.

LeT responsible

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which provides security for the two-month-long Amarnath pilgrimage, said gunmen first opened fire on a security checkpoint but no injuries were reported.

The CRPF said in a statement that militants further attacked the pilgrims’ bus at Batengoo and escaped towards Arwani. Close to 20 people, including security personnel, were injured.

A New Delhi-based security official, speaking anonymously, told AFP that security personnel were exploring “all the angles including suspected Islamists”.

The police in Kashmir say the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the attack and the mastermind was a Pakistani terrorist, Abu Ismail. The attack was carried out by five men and was masterminded by Abu Ismail, an LeT operative from Pakistan.

Bus might not have been registered

Police claim the bus driver had violated rules for the pilgrimage, which state that no yatra vehicle should be on a highway after 7 pm. According to a CRPF statement, the bus was not part of the official yatra and not registered with the Amarnath Shrine Board. The bus was carrying pilgrims back from Baltal after performing the yatra.

Speaking to CNN News 18 channel, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said that the bus the pilgrims were in was not registered with the Amarnath Yatra Board. “This is something everyone knows, that you are not travel without security and yet this happened. The government is investigating how it did,” the minister said.

Intelligence report last month warned of possible terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims

As early as 25 June, intelligence reports indicated that terrorists had been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers and officials.

“Intelligence input received from SSP Anantnag reveals that terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers and officials,” IGP Kashmir Zone Muneer Khan said in a letter which was sent to the Army, the CRPF, and range DIGs in the state.

Asked about the intelligence issue then, Special Director General of CRPF, S N Shrivastava said, “I will not like to discuss the issue in public but you are aware about the situation in Kashmir. We have taken measures as per the these intelligence inputs and have made appropriate security arrangements … This (yatra) is a big challenge to us. Elaborate security has been put in place for an incident-free yatra and to ensure safety and security of pilgrims and camps.”

He also reviewed the elaborate security arrangements. Replying to questions on security, the Special DG said, “All security arrangements have been made in view of the threat perception.”

This year, police had used drone-mounted surveillance cameras, jammers, dog squads, bullet-proof bunkers, satellite tracking devices and other gadgets to secure the pilgrimage in view of increased militancy and violence in Kashmir.

Leaders react

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 … My thoughts are with all those who lost their loved ones in the attack in J&K. My prayers with the injured … India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks & the evil designs of hate … I have spoken to the Governor and Chief Minister of J&K and assured all possible assistance required.”

State minister Naeem Akhtar called the attack a dark patch on the history of Kashmir.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “This is a grave and unacceptable security lapse. The PM needs to accept responsibility and never allow it to happen again”.

J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said, “It is a gruesome attack not only on unsuspecting guests but a brazen attack on Kashmir and Kashmiriyat and all of us shall have to rise against this scourge of violence.”

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said that this incident should add to our determination to eliminate terrorism.

The Logical Indian condemns the terror attack in Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir. Violence of any kind is never justified; our thoughts and prayers are with the injured pilgrims and with the families of the deceased. We hope the government and intelligence agencies catch the perpetrators of this cowardly attack and ensure justice as soon as possible.

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