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Terrorists target yatras in J&K

KS Correspondent

Amarnath Yatra: 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 in the wee hours on July 21. Narrating the sequence of events, Mr AK Bhan, IGP, Kashmir Range said the two unidentified militants had taken refuge in the mazdoor sarai (labourer's inn) nearby. He explained, "there was a grenade blast at
1 AM in one of the tents. The yatris were sleeping, policemen arrived at the tent immediately and they too were fired upon killing DSP Praveen Kumar on the spot. Within half an hour, there was another grenade attack in which more people were injured. But most of the casualties happened in the first attack". The IGP blamed Lashkar-e-Toiba, as there was a clear Lashkar stamp on the Kalashin-Kov, which was recovered from the slain terrorist, disguised as a Sadhu. Interestingly, the Al-Umar claimed responsibility for the attack. 

From the slain terrorist a rifle, four magazines and other ammunition was recovered. 

Reliable reports said that militants had come via Galole Gali that links Wardwan Valley of Kishtwar to Sheshnag. Wardwan has the largest concentration of foreign mercenaries. It is just a 2½ hours walk from gali to Wardwan. Immediately after the blast, the Lashkar group is believed to have gone back to Wardwan and resorted to killings in Doda. 

Sheshnag killings indicate a major security lapse and lack of a proper command structure and coordination between various security agencies. Nearly 12,000 men from J&K Police, CRPF, BSF and Army had been deputed for conducting the yatra. State police was responsible for the inner ring, while BSF took charge of the road. The Army, for its part, was responsible for the "heights along the routes" that lead to the cave. The Army had deployed its two brigades (73 Mountain Brigade and 81 Mountain Brigade) to seal the heights. This year, a week before the start of the yatra, four BSF men were injured in an IED blast near Chandanwari. The blast should have come as a warning to the security forces. The CRPF has blamed the Army for allowing militants to sneak inside Pahalgam since the outer security ring was responsibility of the Army. 

The local police and CRPF were fighting with each other (1-25 AM) near cave, when the first blast occurred. This year most of the complaints of yatris were that JK Police was engaged in extortion and creating hurdles for yatris. This was objected to by CRPF personnel. When JKP men did not stop harassment, CRPF personnel assaulted a JKP officer. 

DSP Parveen Kumar lay helpless with a bullet wound on his thigh. He had reached the site of blast within 10 minutes. As he was trying to rescue the injured, another blast took place a feet away. A security guard accompanying the DSP switched on a torch. Taking use of this, militants opened fire, hitting the DSP and others on their legs and thigh. Had medical aid been available on time, Parveen Kumar's life would have been saved. Parveen Kumar, a fearless police officer never feared death. He had received a gun shot wound in an encounter with mercenaries at Surankote three years back when over 15 mercenaries were gunned down in the encounter. 

Sheshnag attack was the seventh attempt to disrupt Amarnath Yatra this year. 

Army had foiled the attempt to disrupt yatra near Banihal. It was on June 22 when it killed three Hizbul Mujahideen militants at Zanibal. The militants were hiding inside a house and were planning to carry out major strikes. On July 11, a fierce gun-battle between militants and security forces resulted in halting yatra for some hours at Banihal. On July 14, a CRPF spotted a Fidayeen on the out-skirts of Jammu city. He, as per police, was planning to attack the yatra convoy, which was to pass through the area soon after. Despite clear involvement of Lashkar and Hizbul Mujahideen, LeT spokesperson claimed on July 7 that pilgrims should perform yatra with out fear. 

Vasuki Nag Yatra: Within 24 hours of the killing of 15 Hindu shepherds in the hilly Doda district, terrorists attacked Vasuki Nag Prachin Mela in hilly Dera Baba top village of Latti on the morning of August 5. They failed to cause any casualty or damage in the wake of stiff resistance offered by police and VDC members. 

Reports said that two thousand men, women and children had assembled at the historic temple, 18 kms from Latti. People from the district come here every year to offer sheep and goat. At about 8 AM terrorists opened fire from a nearby hill, on the devotees. Police and VDC members immediately took positions and engaged militants in an encounter for one hour. Panic gripped the devotees. They had to seek shelter in the houses during exchange of firing. 

Budha Amarnath Yatra: Security forces foiled Hizbul Mujahideen plan to attack Budha Amarnath Yatra on the morning of August 3. Acting on a tip off, the security forces covered all directions enroute the pilgrimage. At about 2.30 AM, the forces sighted four militants approaching the road. On being challenged, the militants opened fire. In the encounter two militants were gunned down, while two others escaped. 

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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