Sunday, July 22, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

6 pilgrims among 13 killed in 2 blasts
Amarnath Yatra suspended; Shabir blames Hindu extremists
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Pahalgam, July 21
Two police officers and six Amarnath pilgrims were among 13 persons killed and 17 injured in two explosions at Sheshnag on the track to the holy cave shrine early today. Two subsequent explosions at about 1.30 am were followed by firing by suspected militants leading to an encounter, which continued for about six hours. The yatra has been suspended.

The police here claimed that a militant in the garb of a sadhu owing allegiance to Lashkar-e-Toiba was killed in retaliatory action by the security forces. A rifle, four magazines and other ammunition were recovered from the slain militant.

Bodies of two police officers killed in a militant attack at Sheshnag, near the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in South Kashmir, on Saturday. — PTI photo

Policemen removing one of the six bodies of Amarnath pilgrims killed in a blast and shooting at Sheshnag on Saturday. — PTI photo

Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Party President Shabir Ahmad Shah addressing a press conference in Srinagar on Saturday. — PTI photo

The entire area of Sheshnag, 28 km from here, was cordoned off by the security forces and searches to flush out suspected militants were on.

The incident brought to a halt the movement of yatris to and from this base camp and tension prevailed in the area following varying reports about the incident. Traffic from Pahalgam to Chandanwari, 16 km from here, wherefrom the 32-km-track to the holy cave starts, was closed. There was no movement of pilgrims and locals downwards on the track either.

Those killed included DSP Parveen Kumar of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, ASI Sakhi Akbar, six Amarnath pilgrims three of them women and four civilians. Those injured included eight pilgrims, five police personnel and four civilians. Three of the four civilians killed in the incident were identified as Riyaz Ahmad, Farooq Ahmad and Nazir Ahmad.

This is the first such attack on Amarnath pilgrims this year. At least 34 persons, both yatris and locals, were killed in a shootout here on August 1 last year during a brief spell of unilateral ceasefire announced by the Hizbul Mujahideen. The ceasefire, which had begun on July 24, was withdrawn by the Hizbul Mujahideen on August 8.

Senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah told a press conference in Srinagar that the attack was “designed by Hindu extremists” to sabotage the ongoing peace process in the state when ultras during the recent days had affirmed that no attacks would be made on the pilgrims.

Chaos and confusion prevailed in this township following reports of the incidents. Senior police and civil officers, who were engaged in supervising rescue and related operations, were not available. Pilgrims scheduled for onward journey from the Nunwan base camp of the yatra, near here, made frantic enquiries about their schedule for the trek to the cave shrine of Amarnath, 48 km from here.

No movement of traffic and pedestrians was allowed beyond the police station on way to Chandanwari, 16 km away, wherefrom the holy trek of 32 km to the cave shrine begins. Ambulances and police vehicles could be seen all around with choppers making sorties for carrying dead bodies and rescuing the injured.

Three of the six deceased yatris were identified as Asim Ghosh, son of Madhusudan, resident of 5/1 Ramanath Batacharya Street, West Bengal, Kunwar Surjeet, son of Har Prasad, resident of 9/1 Dinar Street, Haura Saddar, West Bengal, and Tuka Ram Kore, son of Laxman Deva, resident of Deelia, Maharashtra.

The injured were identified as Tara Chand, Sharief-ud-Din, Manzoor Ahmad, Bashir Ahmad and Dedar Singh, all policemen, and Alam Din Zoora, a local.

The injured yatris were identified as Dileep Kumar (18), son of Jawala Prasad, resident of Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh), Heema, wife of Hanumansur, resident of Satyara (Maharashtra), Om Gupta, son of Ram Din, resident of Koope Gunj Mahu (Uttar Pradesh), Sanjay Murli Dhar, son of Murli, resident of Doolia (Maharashtra), Nand Kishore, son of Dhibu Kishore, resident of Burnima village, Bihar, Raj Kumar, son of Bola Nath, resident of Mirpur (Uttar Pradesh), Moti Lal, son of Nanchar Shah, resident of Baghalpur (Bihar) and Pantosh Kumar, son Mahesh Kumar, resident of Kathuna Kherpur (Bihar).

Governor G.C. Sexana and the Corps Commander rushed to Sheshnag this morning in separate helicopters to take stock of the situation. Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, who was in Jammu to inaugurate a bridge, rushed back to Srinagar.


Minister visits Amarnath today

New Delhi, July 21
Home Minister L. K. Advani today said the threats of militant outfits from Pakistan to continue their violent activities in Jammu and Kashmir, would be dealt with firmly, even as he directed Minister of State for Home I. D. Swami to visit Sheshnag tomorrow for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation following the death of at least 13 Amarnath pilgrims in two explosions.

The government has taken “due note of the threats by militant outfits in Pakistan and vigilance is being maintained. They will be dealt with firmly,” Mr Advani told reporters.

The team, which would also include Special Secretary (J and K Affairs) A. K. Bhandari, is likely to discuss the re-arrangement of the security network along the Amarnath yatra route, Home Ministry officials said, adding that the team would hold discussions with officials of the Unified Command. PTI

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