2017 Amarnath Yatra attack

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2017 Amarnath Yatra attack
Part of Kashmir conflict
LocationAnantnag district, Jammu and Kashmir, India[1]
Date10 July 2017 (2017-07-10)
Night (IST)
TargetBus carrying pilgrims[2]
Attack type
Mass shooting
Deaths8
Injured18
VictimsHindu pilgrims
PerpetratorsLashkar-e-Taiba (denied responsibility)[3]
Assailants4 LeT attackers; three logistics providers[2]
AccusedAttackers, all killed:
Abu Ismail (mastermind)[4]
Yawar Bashir
Furqan
Maawiya[5]
Logistic support, all arrested:
Bilal Ahmed Reshi
Aizaj Wagey
Zahoor Ahmed[2]

On 10 July 2017, the first Monday of the month of Shraavana, 8 Hindu civilian pilgrims on the way from Amarnath Temple in Kashmir Valley, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir were killed in a terror attack.[6][7] The pilgrims mostly belonged to the Indian state of Gujarat.[8][9] Seven people were killed and at least 18 people were injured in the attack.[10]

Background[edit]

Amarnath Yatra in the glacial heights of Himalayas in Kashmir valley.

The 48-day July–August annual Hindu pilgrimage, undertaken by up to 600,000 or more pilgrims to the 130 feet (40 m)-high glacial Amarnath cave shrine of iced stalagmite Shiv linga at 12,756 feet (3,888 m) in Himalayas, is called Amarnath Yatra.[11][12][13] It begins with a 43 kilometres (27 mi) mountainous trek from the Nunwan and Chandanwari base camps at Pahalgam and reaches the cave-shine after night halts at Sheshnag Lake and Panchtarni camps.[14]

The yatra is both a way of earning revenue by the state government by imposing tax on pilgrims,[15][16] and a way of making a living for the local Shia Muslim Bakarwal-Gujjars by taking a portion of the revenue and by offering services to the Hindu pilgrims, and this source of income has been threatened by the Islamist Kashmiri Sunni militant groups who have banned and attacked the yatra numerous times,[17][18][19][20][21] as well as by recent massacres of at least 59 people prior to July 2017 on this yatra, causing deaths of mostly Hindu pilgrims, in addition to at least 10 Muslim civilians, and several more Muslims among security forces.[22][23][24][25][26]

Previous incidents[edit]

Prior to this incidence, terrorists have attacked the Amaranath yatra at least 3 times in 2000, 2001 and 2002, killing at least 54 and injuring at least another 105 people, including at least 38 unarmed civilian Hindu pilgrims, at least 10 Muslim civilian support service providers, and at least 6 security personnel.[22][23][26][27][28]

On 2 August 2000, Hizbul Mujahideen (designated a terrorist organisation by India,[29] European Union[30] and United States,[31][32][33][34][35]) massacred at least 32 people and injured at least 60 people in a two hour long indiscriminate shoot out at Nunwan base camp in Anantnag district, causing the death of 21 unarmed Hindu pilgrims and 7 unarmed Muslim shopkeepers, and 3 security force officers.[23] This attack on Amarnath yatra was part of the larger 1st and 2nd August 2000 Kashmir massacre in 5 separate coordinated terrorist attacks that killed at least 89 (official count) to 105 people (as reported by PTI), and injured at least 62 more.[27]

On 20 July 2001, a terrorist threw two grenades and fired indiscriminately on a pilgrim night camp at Sheshnag Lake en route Amarnath shrine, killing at least 13 and injured another 15 people. Those killed included 5 unarmed Hindu male pilgrims, 3 unarmed Hindu female pilgrims, 3 unarmed Muslim civilians providing support services to pilgrims, and 2 security officials.[22][23][28]

On 6 August 2002, terrorists from al-Mansuriyan, a front group of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, massacred 9 pilgrims and injured 30 near Nunwan pilgrimage base camp.[23][26]

On 7 July 2017, terrorists attacked a civilian bus that was on the Baltal-Jammu route where movement of vehicles is not allowed after 7 p.m. due to the militants' threats. A tyre of the bus was punctured, taking two to two and a half hours to repair. Pilgrims are not allowed to travel on the route without road-opening parties and security escorts which were withdrawn at around 7:30 p.m. The bus was also not registered with the Amarnath shrine board.[25]

Attack[edit]

After arrests of three locals, described as "co-conspirators" in August 2017 who had provided logistical support to the attackers, Munir Khan, IGP (Kashmir), stated that four Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were involved in it. He said they had planned to carry out an attack a day earlier but there was no movement of CRPF or Amarnath pilgrim vehicle in isolation. He stated it was purely an act of terrorism carried out with the motive of spreading fear. He added that a pilgrim vehicle was there on the day of the attack so they attacked it, had it been a CRPF vehicle, they would have attacked it as well. He further clarified that the attack was first aimed at the police post in the area but unfortunately the bus also came under attack.[2][36]

The security agencies had earlier investigated whether the bus was the target or was it incidental.[37] Earlier according to IGP of Kashmir range Munir Khan and a statement by the Jammu and Kashmir Police, the gunmen had first attacked a police bunker in Botengo which was retaliated, without any casualties being caused in the exchange of fire. Munir added that the gunmen later attacked a police post at Khanabal with the fire being returned and the bus carrying the pilgrims being caught in the crossfire, with seven pilgrims being killed.[38] According to the CRPF, the gunmen had first fired at a combined picket of CRPF and state police, after which they attacked the bus and later fired upon a camp at Arwani. The investigative report of the state police's CID contradicted this, suggesting that the bus was attacked by two sets of terrorists, first at a petrol pump in Batingu at 8:17 p.m and again a few minutes later after which the bus was escorted by a police patrol van to police lines in Anantnag.[39]

The white coloured bus number plated (GJ09Z9979) at which the firing took place carried about 50 pilgrims. It was reported by the Indian media that the attack was carried out by 3-5 terrorists at the location of Khanabal.[40][41][42][43] Though the bus contained more than 50 people, a larger number of casualties was prevented to a great extent due to the actions of the bus driver named "Saleem Mirza".[44] Despite the bus being fired on by the bullets in all directions, the bus driver continued driving the bus in a calm manner for about 1 km before stopping at an intersection.[43]

The Inspector General of CRPF in Kashmir, Muneer Khan, said that Lashkar-e-Taiba, allegedly founded by Hafiz Saeed was behind the attack.[45][46]

Seven pilgrims from Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Telangana, including six women were killed in the attack.[41][47] Another pilgrim succumbed to her injuries on 16 July.[48]

Aftermath[edit]

The bodies of the seven Amarnath pilgrims killed in the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir were brought to Gujarat’s Surat airport along with the injured people and their family members in an Indian Air Force plane. The Government of Gujarat announced a compensation of 600,000 (US$8,700) for the relatives of the every killed victims and 200,000 (US$2,900) for the injured victims. Subsequently the Government of India announced compensation of 700,000 (US$10,000) for the killed victims and 100,000 (US$1,400)[49]

Jammu and Kashmir State Chief Minister paid a visit to the injured victims of the attack at the hospital. During her visit she spoke to Indian media she said the attack is a "Blot on all Muslims and Kashmiri" and the "Head of every Kashmiri hangs in shame over the incident". She further said that she have no words to condemn the terror attack.[43]

Bus driver "Saleem Mirza" who was hailed as a hero due to his act of bravery spoke to Indian media and said "God gave me strength to save lives of people". The Government of Gujarat's Chief Minister Vijay Rupani thanked Mirza as he saved lives despite heavy firing. Rupani informed the Indian media that the Government of Gujarat will nominate Mirza for the bravery award with the Government of India.[44]

Police officials including Inspector General of Police of Kashmir Muneer Khan, said the attack on Amaranth Yatra pilgrims was allegedly carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba and the attack was masterminded by a Pakistani terrorist named Abu Ismail, a local LeT commander who is also thought to be the future successor of Abu Dujana, Lashkar's chief commander in Kashmir. He was also assisted by some Kashmiri militants. A manhunt was launched by security forces to capture Ismail.[50]

Security forces' action[edit]

Security forces, including J&K Police and Central Paramilitary forces of India, jointly intensified the cordon and search grid-based ongoing "Operation Hunt Down" to track and kill the LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists placed on the identified "hit list", and had already killed 102 terrorists from 1 January to 14 July 2017, including the extermination of terrorists responsible for the killing of seven J&K Police cops and the lynching of DSP Ayub Pandith, while a colossal hunt was on for mastermind of terrorist attack on Amarnath Yatra, LeT commander Abu Ismail.[4]

All over ground workers who had provided logistic support to the terrorists had been identified by 24 July.[51] All of them had been arrested by 27 July.[52]

Abu Ismail, the main accused, was killed along with an associate Abu Kassim on 14 September by security forces in Nowgam.[53] Yawar Basir, Furqan and Abu Maviya were killed on 5 December.[54]

Reactions[edit]

"Rediff" reported the attack as the worst attack carried out on the annual pilgrimage since 2001.[49]

The attack was condemned by many including Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister of India Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister of J&K Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference party leader Omar Abdullah. Several Organisations, such as J&K National Conference (JKNC), Indian National Congress, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, National Panthers Party, etc. condemned the attack and called for a strike in Jammu Valley in protest against the attack. Also, Mobile and Internet services were suspended in Jammu region in view of the attack as a measure to prevent any kind of rumour mongering.[41][47][55]

Protest in Gujarat

Locally, the political party Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) President G A Mir condemned the attack and described it as shocking and highly shameful. More than 200 activists of the JKPCC thronged the Rehari belt of Jammu city and held protests against the killing of pilgrims. They raised anti-government and anti-BJP slogans and demanded that the government should be sacked.[49]

Protest in Gujarat

The protestors in the Jammu Division burnt Pakistani flags in protest of the terrorist attack. They expressed a lack of confidence in the Mehbooba Mufti government and demanded the imposition of Governor's Rule in the State.[49][56]

After being blamed for the attack by the police, a LeT spokesman condemned the attack and termed it un-Islamic. They denied they were involved in the attack, blaming it instead on the Indian intelligence agencies.[3][57]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bus Carrying Slain Amarnath Pilgrims Was Not Part Of Official Convoy, Yatris Not Registered: Reports". Huffington Post.
  2. ^ a b c d "Three arrested for attack on Amarnath yatris: IGP Kashmir Munir Khan". Times of India.
  3. ^ a b "LeT denies Amarnath attack charge; blames Indian intel".
  4. ^ a b "Security forces killed 102 terrorists in J&K in 7 months, more on hit list", Times of India, 14 July 2017.
  5. ^ "=LeT behind Amarnath yatra attack, 3 arrested: Police". Greater Kashmir.
  6. ^ 8 Dead in the Biggest Terror Attack on Amarnath Yatra in Years., Quint[permanent dead link], 11 July 2017.
  7. ^ "Why Amarnath Yatra terror attack signals crossing of a red line in Kashmir".
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  10. ^ Anuja Boss, A Look At The Bloody History Of Terror Attacks On Amarnath Yatra Pilgrims, Huffington Post, 11 July 2017.
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  12. ^ Amarnath Yatra Tourism Information, One India Online
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  14. ^ Amarnath yatra ends, least number of pilgrims in decade, The Hindu, 18 August 2016.
  15. ^ BJP demands removal of Amarnath yatra entry fee, Times of India.
  16. ^ No Additional Tax Levied on Vehicles Going to Amarnath and Vaishno Devi, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Finance of Government of India, 2010.
  17. ^ Carl W. Ernst, 2016, Refractions of Islam in India: Situating Sufism and Yoga, SAGE Publications, ISBN 9351509648.
  18. ^ Muslim group asks for reviving Amarnath Yatra, Times of India, 17 July 2016.
  19. ^ Expert Speak on Kashmir: No algorithm for Azadi, Observer Research Foundation, August 2016.
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  21. ^ [1] Archived 10 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ a b c 6 pilgrims among 13 killed in 2 blasts, The Tribune, 11 July 2017.
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  42. ^ "Terror attack on Amarnath yatra: 7 pilgrims killed, 19 injured in Anantnag". Business Standard.
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External links[edit]