Jammu: A fresh batch of 3,289 pilgrims left Jammu for Amarnath Yatra to the Kashmir valley on Tuesday despite a terror attack the previous day on a bus which left seven pilgrims dead. “A fresh batch of 3,289 yatris left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in an escorted convoy of 185 vehicles around 3 AM on Tuesday for the valley,” officials said here.
On Monday night, seven pilgrims – six women and a man – were killed and 19 others injured when unidentified gunmen attacked an unescorted bus from Gujarat at Khanabal in Anantnag district on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. The victims were travelling in the bus which was neither part of the escorted yatra convoy nor registered with the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).
“The attack occurred at 8:20 PM. All yatra movement which is protected by the security forces on the highway stops at 7 PM after which no movement of pilgrims is officially allowed,” said a senior police officer. The pilgrims had performed the yatra and had boarded the bus at north Kashmir’s Baltal base camp.
The officer said the militants first attacked a police bullet proof bunker at Khanabal and later a police check point. “After retaliation from the police, the militants started firing indiscriminately. The bus of pilgrims, according to police, was caught in the ambush,” a police spokesman said.
The last known terror attack on Amarnath Yatra was the killing of 30 people, mostly pilgrims, in the base camp in Pahalgam in 2000. The 40-day long yatra started on June 29 and will end on August 07.
So far, nearly 1.4 lakh pilgrims have reached the cave shrine located at 3,888 metres above sea-level. (With Inputs from IANS)