Seven pilgrims were killed on the spot while twelve including three policemen were injured after terrorists attacked a Yatri bus and a police party in Anantnag along the Jammu-Srinagar Highway in south Kashmir on Monday, media reports said.
Internet services in Kashmir have been blocked after the attack.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh are taking stock of the situation. Condemning the attack, Modi tweeted, “Pained beyond words on the dastardly attack on peaceful Amarnath Yatris in Jammu and Kashmir” but “India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and the evil designs of hate”.
Defence minister Arun Jaitley termed the terrorist attack on Amarnath Yatra as “the most reprehensible act”, PTI said.
According to police officials, the militants attacked an armored car of the police at 8.20 pm on Monday, PTI reported. When the police fired back, the militants fled, firing indiscriminately, the official added.
“In the firing by militants, seven people, five of them women, were killed, and another seven injured,” the official confirmed. The injured have been taken to the Army Base Hospital in Srinagar.
Government sources revealed that the Amaranath yatri bus was from Gujarat.The Jammu-Srinagar
The bus had come from Sonamarg. The pilgrims were on their way back after visiting the Amarnath shrine. Highway has been closed after the attack.
“Some gunshots were heard on Jammu-Srinagar Highway near Batengoo,” a police source told IANS.
The area has been cordoned off and a manhunt has been launched to nab the terrorists who escaped after the attack.
According to CNN-News18, the police were escorting the pilgrims when the militants opened fire.
The bus was reportedly not a part of the main yatra convoy and was not registered with the shrine board, was traveling without any escort. Police officials claimed that the bus driver had violated rules for the pilgrimage, which states that no Yatra vehicle should be on a highway after 7 pm.
The main yatra convoy is escorted by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which has now rushed troops to the spot. The report said that around 1.2 lakh pilgrims have registered themselves this year.
A report by News 18 said, in a letter sent to the army, CRPF and range DIGs, Khan had written, “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.”
The report said that security forces suspect the operation was carried out jointly by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. There were reportedly three assailants, and one of them, Ismail, arrived on a motorbike and emptied two magazines on pilgrims.
On Sunday, special prayers were held near the Pahalgam base camp of the annual Amarnath Yatra marking the commencement of the pilgrimage.
The Amarnath Yatra via Pahalgam in South Kashmir is the shorter route as against from Baltal via Sonmarg in Gandarbal district. However, for both routes, pilgrims have to travel through south Kashmir, which is simmering with anger against India and the security forces.