Though security agencies blamed terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for killing seven Amarnath pilgrims in south Kashmir's Anantnag district, the LeT has denied responsibility for the attack, according to media reports.
Kashmir police chief Munir Khan said that there were credible inputs that suggest LeT was responsible for Monday's attack, which also left 19 pilgrims injured.
However, according to a report in the Hindustan Times, the LeT has said it had nothing to do with the incident. LeT spokesperson, Abdullah Ghaznavi, blamed "Indian agencies" for the “highly reprehensible act", the deadliest on Amarnath pilgrims in 15 years.
Times Now reported a statement from the LeT: "Islam doesn't allow violence against any faith. We strongly condemn such acts."
However, intelligence officials suggested that the LeT's vehement denials can be viewed through the prism of geopolitics.
According to a report in The Times of India, an intelligence officer believes that the fact that innocent civilians were the target of the terrorists could draw international attention, which could create trouble for our neighbours to the West. "Pakistan has been told time and again to rein in Hafeez Saeed and the LeT terror network," an intelligence officer was quoted as saying in the report.
In 2001, the terror outfit released a statement, assuring that they had no intention of attacking Amarnath Yatra pilgrims. "Our aim is neither to attack the Amarnath Yatra nor the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and the pilgrims should therefore join the Yatra without any fear," LeT spokesman Abu Abra said in a statement to a Srinagar news agency, according to a report on Rediff.com.
But intelligence agencies have good reason to view the LeT's statement with scepticism. History shows that Amarnath Yatra devotees have faced repeated attacks from the LeT.
A bloody history
According to The Hindu, at least 13 people were killed and 15 others injured when a militant, who was reportedly affiliated with the LeT, hurled grenades at a camp and later fired indiscriminately near the Amarnath cave on 20 July, 2001. The militant initially lobbed a grenade at the camp and as policemen rushed to the spot, tossed another grenade which killed at least two police officials.
CNN-News18 reported that on 30 July, 2002, two pilgrims were killed and three injured when militants hurled grenades at a taxi in Srinagar which was on its way to the Amarnath cave base camp. Just a week later, on 6 August, three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists opened fire inside the Nunwan (Pahalgam) base camp, killing nine people and injuring 27.
This attack took place despite the presence of an estimated 15,000 troops and police personnel deployed to protect the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims, an article in Frontline reported.
Intelligence officials point finger at 'desperate' LeT
According to a report in India Today, a top official said that the early assessment by the intelligence agencies was that the terrorists were acting out of desperation. "The killing of Jammu and Kashmir policemen has been a turning point. The force has turned the screws on and the intensity of their vigil and counter against terrorism has pushed the terrorists," the official told India Today.
Top intelligence officials claim the terrorists were forced to look for sitting ducks due to heavy security arrangements made by the army and government forces in Kashmir, India Today reported. The LeT reportedly activated its sympathisers and workers on the ground to narrow down the search for a soft target.
"They had been tailing this group from Gujarat comprising mostly women for the last two days and tipped off the terrorists to attack the group when there was no security around," top government sources told Mail Today.
Meanwhile, security for the ongoing pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine has been beefed up. The deceased were from Gujarat and their bodies were flown home on Tuesday morning.
Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh and other senior ruling PDP-BJP leaders and senior civil and police officers laid wreaths on their bodies before they were flown to Gujarat.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 19:12 PM