Tahlka News Bureau
New Delhi: Seven people including five women got killed and almost 30 other were injured after militants attacked a bus moving towards the holy site on Monday evening. The incident took place at Botengo village near Anantnag district on the Sringar-Jammu National Highway in South Kashmir at around 8:10pm.
The militants attacked a police picket near Khannabal. When police retaliated, the militants reportedly fled firing indiscriminately in which the bus carrying pilgrims were hit. Most of the victims were from Gujarat.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemning the 'dastardly' attack said he was pained beyond words and offered all possible help to the state government. "India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and the evil designs of hate," he tweeted on Monday. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti described the act as an assault on Indian values and traditions, and those involved must be punished.
9.19 am: The attack was carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, masterminded by Pakistan terrorist Ismail, IG Kashmir Muneer Khan said in an interview.
9.14 am: Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu tweets, "Pained and shocked by the cowardice of terrorists in attacking innocent #AmarnathPilgrims. My prayers with the victims."
9.10 am: Officials from the Home Ministry, including MoS Hansraj Ahir and JS Kashmir Gyaneshwar Kumar will visit Srinagar today to take stock of the situation.
9.07 am: The Uttar Pradesh government is taking stringent measures to ensure safety and security of pilgrims who depart on the Kanwar Yatra today. In a high-level emergency meeting last night, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath personally reviewed the security situation in the state with Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar, Director General of Police, Sulkhan Singh and ADG (law and order) Anand Kumar. He directed them to remain vigilant ahead of the month-long religious yatra.
8.52 am: Trade bodies and other organisations including the VHP, Bajrang Dal, NC, Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Jammu Kashmir National Panthers Party have called for a complete shutdown in the state today. Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Rakesh Gupta appealed to the people to join the protest, peacefully, in memory of the Amarnath victims.
8.45 am: A high-level meeting is scheduled to take place at 9.45 am at Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh's residence. Separately, J&K Governor N N Vohra has also called a meeting in Srinagar to assess the situation, reports ANI.
8.40 am: Separatist leaders in the Valley have comdemned the attack. In a joint statement, top leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, "expressed deep sorrow and grief over the killing of Amarnath Yatris in Anantnag today and strongly condemned it". "This incident goes against the very grain of Kashmiri ethos", they added. The leadership is expected to meet today to discuss the situation.
Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told The Indian Express, "It (the attack) has deeply saddened everybody. The people and the leadership of Kashmir strongly condemn this attack on the yatris. For us, the pilgrims are and will always be respected guests."
8.25 am: The victims, both deceased and injured, will be airlifted to New Delhi today in a special BSF aircraft. "The dead and the injured pilgrims will be shifted to Srinagar tonight. They will then be airlifted to New Delhi in a special BSF aircraft at 7:30 AM tomorrow," J&K Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh was quoted as saying by PTI.
The deceased were identified as Hasuben Ratilal Patel, Surkhaben, Patal Lakshmiben, Ratan Zeena Bhai Patel and Praja Pati Champa Ben from Gujarat and Usha Mohan Lal Sonkar and Thakur Nirmala Bharat from Maharashtra.
8.22 am: Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who called the attack "a crime against humanity", calls for decisive action against its perpetrators. "The attack on the devotees of Lord Shiva is a crime against humanity. The entire nation is in shock," she said in a statement.
8.15 am: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis reacts to the attack, says Maharashtra strongly condemns the cowardly attack in J&K. "Our deepest condolences to the bereaved families," he adds.
Maharashtra strongly condemns the cowardly attack on #AmarnathYatra pilgrims in J&K.— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) July 10, 2017
Our deepest condolences to the bereaved families.
Monday's attack in Anantnag district on pilgrims returning from the Amarnath shrine is the "crossing" of a new red line for militants in Kashmir. Click here to know why.
8.12 am: The attack is being investigated by the state police. The yatra is going, we will ensure that it goes on peacefully, Zulfiqar Hasan, IG (Operations), CRPF, is quoted as saying by ANI.
8.08 am: Last night, CM Mehbooba Mufti had visited those injured in the attack at Anantnag Hospital.
8.03 am: President Pranab Mukherjee tweets, "Strongly condemn attack on Amarnath Yatris in J&K; grieve the loss of innocent lives."
Strongly condemn attack on Amarnath Yatris in J & K ; grieve the loss of innocent lives #PresidentMukherjee— President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) July 11, 2017
8.00 am: Ahead of the Presidential polls, both candidates in the fray, NDA's Ram Nath Kovind and the Opposition's Meira Kumar have condemned the attack. While Kovind asserted the "cowards responsible for the barbaric attack will not be spared", Kumar said "any attack on the secular fabric of the nation is condemnable".
7.45 am: According to officials, the bus was not registered with the Amarnath Shrine Board, and hence, not part of the officials yatri envoy which was provided elaborate security. Further, the bus driver had reportedly violated rules but driving on the highway after 7 pm, after which security cover is withdrawn, top government and police sources were quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
7.20 am: Meanwhile, people in the Valley woke up to a complete bandh; internet services have been suspended across the region.
7.15 am: Undeterred by Monday's terror attack on a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims in Anantnag district, over 3,000 yatris, including women, left Jammu for darshan of the ice-lingam in the South Kashmir Himalayas during the wee hours of Tuesday.
7.10 am: Welcome to our live blog. Last evening, a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims from Baltal to Jammu was caught in the crossfire after militants targeted J&K security forces near the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway. Seven people were killed, including five women, and over 30 were injured. The attack, which is considered the worst on the annual pilgrimage since 2000, has neither deterred pilgrims nor officials from conducting the religious yatra.