At least seven people were killed and 19 others were injured when suspected members of the Pakistan-backed Laskar-e-Toiba terrorists targeted a bus ferrying Amarnath Yatra pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday night.
The bus, which was not part of an official convoy, was attacked at around 8.20 pm, near Khanabal Anantnag district, where terrorists first attacked two police posts before fleeing and then opening fire at the bus. The bus was carrying a group of pilgrims back from Amarnath after they finished the Yatra two days ago.
Zulfiqar Hasan, IG (Operations) of the Central Reserve Police Force, who visited the attack site in the morning confirmed that the Amarnath Yatra will continue. "We will ensure that it goes on peacefully," Hasan said.
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti spent the night in Anantnag among the survivors of the attack.
The Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries declared a shutdown in Jammu today following the attack on Amarnath pilgrims. The Jammu bandh call was supported by the opposition National Conference, which called the attack part of a nefarious design to vitiate the secular fabric of Jammu and Kashmir.
Terrorists first attacked a bullet-proof police bunker in Botengoo. When they faced resistance, the militants fled and subsequently attacked a police picket near Khannabal before targeting the bus (GJ 09 Z 9976).
The terrorists fired on the bus indiscriminately, leading to the deaths of seven pilgrims - five from Gujarat and two from Maharashtra.
The deceased from Gujarat were identified as Hasuben Ratila Patal, Surakha Ben and Lakshimiben S Patal from Valsad, Ratan Zeena Bhai Patal of Daman and Prajapati Champaben of Navsari.
Those from Maharashtra were Nirmala Ben Thakor, a resident of Palghar, and Usha Mohanla Sonkar of Danu.
The 19 others who suffered injuries in the attack were said to be stable were moved to the Army Base Hospital in Srinagar. Authorities were in the process of airlifting them to New Delhi from Srinagar.
According to officials, the pilgrims on the bus, which was not registered with the Amarnath Yatra committee, had finished their yatra two days ago and had subsequently moved to Srinagar. The bus was without a police escort and, according to officials, violated the 7 pm highway curfew for Amarnath yatris. Security cover for Amarnath Yatra convoys is withdrawn after 7 pm and no buses carrying pilgrims are supposed to be commuting on a highway.
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said she did not have enough words to condemn the attack. The incident has left Kashmiris' heads hanging in shame," Mufti said. "The attack is a blot on the name of Muslims and the people of Kashmir."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was briefed on the deadly attack on Amarnath pilgrims by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, took to Twitter to express his grief.
"Pained beyond words on the dastardly attack on peaceful Amarnath Yatris in J&K. The attack deserves strongest condemnation from everyone. My thoughts are with all those who lost their loved ones in the attack in J&K. My prayers with the injured," Modi said in a series of tweets. "India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and the evil designs of hate. I have spoken to the governor and chief minister of J&K and assured all possible assistance required."
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said: "The attack cannot be condemned strongly enough."