According to sources, the pilgrims were from Gujarat, and struck by terrorists in Anantnag at 8:20 pm. Among the worshipers who succumbed to bullet injuries, two are from Valsad, two from Dharampur, two from Pardi and one from Vansda.
"Seventeen pilgrims were travelling from Baltal to Mir Bazar when they were fired upon. Two pilgrims died on the spot," said a senior CRPF officer. "Troops of our 90 battalion and 40 battalion have been rushed to the spot," the officer added.
Terrorists first attacked the combined checkpoint of STF, SOG and CRPF in Khannabal at around 8:15 pm, and ran towards Batingu. No loss of life or injury was reported. The terrorists, then, targeted the bus carrying pilgrims, killing six of them, and escaped running towards Arwani area. They opened fire on the camp of G/90 battalion while running away from the spot.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, in a statement, informed that terrorists initially targeted the police bunker in Batigu. There was a retaliatory fire from the police, and there was no report of any injuries. Thereafter, the terrorists fired on a Police checkpoint near Khannabal, the CM said.
"The fire was retaliated. A tourist bus was hit by bullets in which about 18 tourists were injured. Among them, 6 persons died, while rest are being treated. The bus was on the way to Jammu from Baltal, and was not part of the yatra convoy," the statement read.
The security forces suspect the operation was carried out jointly by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. There were reportedly three assailants, and one of them, Ismail, arrived on a motorbike and emptied two magazines on pilgrims.
Jammu and Kashmir tourism minister Priya Sethi told CNN-News18 that the attack could be one of the repercussions of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani's death anniversary this year. Sethi also added: "This bus was unregistered and was not travelling with the convoy."
The bus carrying these pilgrims was not a part of the main convoy and was not registered with the shrine board, and hence, was not being guarded by security forces.
Pained beyond words on dastardly attack on peaceful Amarnath Yatris in J&K.The attack deserves strongest condemnation from everyone: PM Modi— ANI (@ANI_news) July 10, 2017
India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks & evil designs of hate, tweets PM on attack in Anantnag on #AmarnathYatra pilgrims— ANI (@ANI_news) July 10, 2017
Minister of State Home Affairs Jitendra Singh called it the most condemnable incident. "This is indeed an attack on the composite culture of Kashmir."
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took to Twitter and condemned the attack on the pilgrims, urging the fellow Kashmiris to "unequivocally" castigate the terror attack.
"Every right thinking Kashmiri must today condemn the killing of the Amarnath yatris and say, unequivocally - this is #NotInMyName," Abdullah tweeted.
This is the first time in the recent past that Amarnath pilgrims have come under attack in Jammu and Kashmir.
The annual yatra to Amarnath had started on June 29 from Pahalgam and Baltal amid tight security arrangements on June 29. Over 6,000 pilgrims were allowed to move towards the shrine from north Kashmir's Baltal base camp while 5,000 pilgrims started moving from the Pahalgam route. A total of 1.5 lakh pilgrims had registered for this year’s yatra. Over 40,000 CRPF personnel were deployed to guard the route.
2 Amarnath yatra pilgrims killed, many injured after terrorists attacked their bus in Batingu area of J&K's Anantnag. pic.twitter.com/0VUhq77r2u— ANI (@ANI_news) July 10, 2017
This year’s yatra was being organised under the “highest-ever multi-tier security setup” as intelligence agencies had warned that militants were planning to target 100 policemen and as many pilgrims participating in the Amarnath Yatra.
In a letter sent to the Army, CRPF and range DIGs, IGP Kashmir Zone Munir Khan had written, “Intelligence input received from SSP Anantnag reveals that terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers and officials.”