Home Minister Rajnath Singh called an emergency meeting in Delhi to review the situation after seven Amarnath pilgrims were killed by terrorists in Anantnag district in Jammu and Kashmir.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, top officials of the home ministry, intelligence agencies and central paramilitary forces attended the meeting.
The home minister took stock of the prevailing situation in Kashmir Valley, particularly the two routes to the shrine, located in the Himalayas at an altitude of 12,756 feet during the hour-long meeting, official sources said.
Issues like security of Amarnath pilgrims and how to prevent such possible attacks in the future were discussed.
Immediately after the meeting, the NSA briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the deliberations as well as the steps taken for the security of the Amarnath pilgrims, sources said.
A high-level central team led by Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir also visited Jammu and Kashmir to assess the security of the pilgrimage to the high altitude cave shrine located in the Himalayas.
Director General of CRPF R R Bhatnagar also reached Srinagar to review the deployment of the central forces in the pilgrimage route.
Meanwhile, arrangements were made for airlifting the bodies of the victims of last night’s attack.
A bus carrying pilgrims, was headed to Jammu from Srinagar when it came under attack at around 8.20 pm near Khannabal. The terrorists were locked in a gunfire with the security officials when the bus came under attack. The terrorists fired indiscriminately at the bus, killing 7 pilgrims which included six women.
According to the security forces, the terrorists first attacked a bullet-proof bunker of the police at Botengoo and then fired at a police picket near Khannabal. At both these places the forces retaliated. Thus, before fleeing the terrorists fired indiscriminately at the bus.
According to the police, the pilgrims in the bus had finished their yatra two days ago. Police also revealed that the bus was not a part of the yatra convoy which was being provided elaborate security.
Top government and police sources said the bus driver had violated the rules. According to the rules, no yatra vehicle should be on the highway after 7 pm as the security cover is withdrawn at that time.
Five of those killed were from Gujarat and two from Maharashtra.
The deceased from Gujarat were identified as Hasuben Ratila Patal, Surakha Ben and Lakshimiben S Patal from Valsad, Ratan Zeena Bhai Patal of Daman and Prajapati Champaben of Navsari, a Jammu and Kashmir police spokesperson said.
Those from Maharashtra were Nirmala Ben Thakor, a resident of Palghar, and Usha Mohanla Sonkar of Danu. Police said 19 pilgrims were injured in the attack and their condition is stable.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack soon after the incident.
“Pained beyond words on the dastardly attack on peaceful Amarnath Yatris in J&K. The attack deserves strongest condemnation from everyone,” Modi tweeted.
“My thoughts are with all those who lost their loved ones in the attack in J&K. My prayers with the injured…India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks & the evil designs of hate,” he said.
The last time the Amarnath yatra was targeted was in 2001 when terrorists had struck in the Sheshnag area close to the holy cave of Amarnath, killing 13 people. Another attack took place August 1, 2000 in Pahalgam area in which 30 people were killed.
(With inputs from PTI)