Jammu and Kashmir police have tightened security in the state and have launched a manhunt for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Abu Ismail, a Pakistani terrorist, and two others who masterminded the Amarnath Yatra terror attack, reported News18.
Meanwhile, security forces claimed that for the first time in the history of Kashmiri militancy, two terror outfits — LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen — have come together to carry out an operation. They said this is significant because the Hizbul usually refrains from attacking pilgrims.
The attack took place hours after the Jammu and Kashmir Police claimed to have busted a Lashkar-e-Taiba module with the arrests of two persons, including Sandeep Kumar Sharma alias Adil, a resident of Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.
The terrorists killed seven pilgrims, including six women, and injured 19 others as they struck at a bus in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag district, in the worst attack on the annual pilgrimage since the year 2001.
The bus was attacked in Batengoo area of Anantnag around 8.20 pm while returning from Baltal to Mir Bazar after the pilgrimage, Jammu and Kashmir police and CRPF said.
Five of those killed were from Gujarat and two from Maharashtra. An alert was issued in Gujarat late last night after the news came in of the terror attack, in which majority of the victims were from the state.
The Gujarat government has also announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the kin of each of the deceased and Rs 2 lakh each to the injured.
The bodies of seven Amarnath pilgrims killed in the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir were brought to Gujarat's Surat airport on Tuesday along with the injured people and their family members in an Indian Air Force plane.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who received the bodies in Surat, condemned the attack and said that the country will never bow down to such an ideology. He also added that the government would bear the costs of the medical treatment of the injured.
"We have cancelled all the programmes that were to be held today, including a party meet to be attended by BJP president Amit Shah and a programme of the presidential candidate to seek support...," Rupani said.
He also praised the bus driver of the fateful bus, Saleem, for brazing the attack and driving the bus to safety in the midst of a gunfight between security forces and the militants. Rupani said that the initial reports that he received suggested that Saleem was injured himself, but he rushed the bus to safety nonetheless. The Gujarat chief minister also said that he would consider nominating Saleem for the bravery award as well.
At various places in Ahmedabad, protests as well as events to pay a tribute to the deceased were held on Tuesday. According to AP, several effigies symbolising Pakistan were also burnt.
Situation in Kashmir Valley
The injured have been taken to the Army Base Hospital in Srinagar.
As a precautionary measure, internet and broadband services have been suspended in the region. To review the security situation in Kashmir, army chief Bipin Rawat will visit Badami Bagh Army headquarters in Srinagar on Tuesday.
Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party as well as Srinagar tour and travel operators held a protest in Jammu over attack on Amarnath Yatra pilgrims. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah strongly condemned the attack and expressed concern that Kashmiris staying in other parts of India may be targeted and threatened as a backlash for the Monday night attack on Amarnath Yatra pilgrims.
— ANI (@ANI_news) July 11, 2017
However, Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh asked pilgrims from across the country to continue with their plans of Amarnath pilgrimage, saying the state government was alert.
"I want to assure the nation that Jammu and Kashmir government is alert. We are not taking any chances," Singh said. He appealed to people not to be deterred by the militant attack. Singh said the government will investigate as to how the attack on the bus carrying pilgrims took place.
According to a ground report by CNN-News 18, police sources have said that there were specific intelligence inputs warning about such an assault. Initial reports surfacing so far also point to major lapses in the set security protocol.
The fateful bus was reportedly venturing out independently beyond the sanctioned time limit of 7 pm when the intense security cover is lifted.
Besides, a CRPF statement said that the bus was also not registered with the Amarnath Yatra shrine board, therefore, it was not accompanied by the state police' escort vehicle which are usually the part of the pilgrimage convoy.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has launched an enquiry into the attack and the ownership and validity of the permits of the bus would be a point of scrutiny as initial reports state that the bus was moving in isolation without the compulsory security escort vehicle as it was not registered with the Amarnath Shrine Board.
Sitaram Yechury, leader of CPM condemned the attack and said that despite intelligence inputs, precautionary measures were not taken before.
Responses to the attack
CNN-News18 reported that the defence ministry has said that the Amarnath Yatra terror attack will be given a befitting reply. In the national capital, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval apprised Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the incident. Union home and defence ministry officials were huddled in a meeting at Rajnath Singh's residence to take stock of the situation.
Modi tweeted, "Pained beyond words on the dastardly attack on peaceful Amarnath yatris in Jammu and Kashmir. The attack deserves strongest condemnation from everyone."
Pained beyond words on the dastardly attack on peaceful Amarnath Yatris in J&K. The attack deserves strongest condemnation from everyone.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 10, 2017
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti termed the strike an attack on Kashmiri roots. "We will not leave any stone unturned in bringing the perpetrators of this attack to justice."
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad termed it "unfortunate", and added that the militants will have to "pay through their nose". Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has hit out at the government over the terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims, terming it a "grave and unacceptable security lapse" and asked the prime minister to accept responsibility.
This is a grave & unacceptable security lapse. The PM needs to accept responsibility and never allow it to happen again — Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) July 10, 2017
Meanwhile, the home minister saluted the people of Kashmir for standing up against the attack on Amarnath pilgrims, and said that the widespread condemnation emanating from all sections of society from the Valley has only boosted his morale.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 11, 2017 16:56 PM