Srinagar/New Delhi: Monday night’s attack on the Amarnath pilgrims was masterminded by top Lashkar-e-Tayyaba commander Abu Ismail, who is known to operate in South Kashmir, the J&K cop and the Centre claimed on Tuesday, but the Lashkar, however, denied this.
“Most of the firing was done at the right side of the bus, where 28 passengers were seated. The seven passengers who died and most of the injured were sitting on that side. Initial reports revealed that the militants came in two groups, comprising three and two, and fired indiscriminately at the bus within a range of 75 meters.
IGP (Kashmir range) Munir Ahmed Khan, speaking to reporters, reiterated the police’s earlier statement that the gunmen had initially attacked a police bunker at Botengo, 56 km south of Srinagar, and that the fire was returned, but the exchange didn’t cause any casualties.
He said soon after, the terrorists targeted a police naka party at neighbouring Khanabal, the gateway to Anantnag town on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, and again fire was returned.
The police in Srinagar said the bus was not part of a Amarnath Yatra convoy. Such convoys are provided tight security right from Lakhanpur in Kathua district of Jammu region to the base camps of Baltal and Pahalgam and back.
Also as per standard operating procedure vetted by the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), no vehicle carrying Amarnath pilgrims is to be allowed to move between the base camps and the Jawahar Tunnel beneath the Pir Panjal Range, which connects the state’s Jammu region with the Valley, after nightfall.
The police had before the start of the 40-day yatra said no vehicle carrying pilgrims would be allowed to cross the Jawahar Tunnel after 3.30 pm.
“This was done so that yatris reach the Baltal base camp within seven hours from the tunnel, and they don’t have to make a night halt midway,” they said, adding: “This will ensure they don’t travel after nightfall.”
The officials said they were also investigating how the bus with Amarnath pilgrims was moving along the “most vulnerable” stretch of the Srinagar-Jammu highway after sunset. The attack took place at around 8.15 pm.
The Centre has sent a high-level team comprising ministers of state Hansraj Ahir and Jitendra Singh to Srinagar to monitor the situation. Top intelligence and security officials too have been rushed to the Valley....