Seven Amarnath pilgrims were killed and 12 injured when terrorists opened fire at a patrol vehicle on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway on Monday night. A police official said the vehicle came under fire at Anantnag’s Batengo area around 8.30 p.m.
The attack took place when quick response teams of the Army had withdrawn from the highway around sunset, making the vehicle vulnerable.
“A mini-bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims also got hit in the militant fire,” said the police official.
Batengo is a small stopover at Khanabal with sparse population and large swathes of fields.
Hospital sources said six pilgrims were killed in the attack and later one died of injuries in hospital. Three of those injured were in a critical state.
Six of the seven killed were from Gujarat's Valsad district. According to sources, there were 60 passengers in the bus and were all mostly from Surat, Valsad and Daman. The bus belonged to Om travels in Valsad in South Gujarat. The bus left Gujarat on 2nd July. Darshan was completed day before yesterday.
"Six people killed in the terrorist attack are from Valsad," said Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. He added, "bodies of Amarnath Pilgrims killed in Anantnag terror attack along with injured will be flown to Gujarat by IAF plane."
The mini-bus was proceeding from Jammu to Srinagar.
An official said it was not registered with the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and was travelling against the advisory not to ply after sunset.
The police had asked all vehicles carrying pilgrims to cross the Jawahar Tunnel in daylight and avoid travelling in the Valley after sundown.
Meanwhile, political parties have condemned the attack. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said it was an attack on Kashmir’s culture and value system. “No stone will be left unturned to bring the perpetrators to justice,” she said.
“These terrorists are the enemies of Kashmir & Kashmiriyat. Every right-thinking Kashmiri must today condemn the killing of the Amarnath yatris and say, unequivocally — this is #NotInMyName,” wrote former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Twitter.
The Centre said it had not taken any decision on calling off the yatra.
CRPF DG R.R Bhatnagar told The Hindu that any decision to “call off or continue” the yatra would be taken by the State government. CRPF is one of the main security forces deployed along the 40-day annual Yatra.
( With inputs from Vijaita Singh, Mahesh Langa and PTI )