Tags: AS | Kashmir | Pilgrims Attacked

Hindus Continue Pilgrimage in Kashmir after 7 Die in Attack

Hindus Continue Pilgrimage in Kashmir after 7 Die in Attack

Tuesday, 11 July 2017 05:11 AM

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Thousands of Hindus continued a religious pilgrimage in Indian-controlled Kashmir under heightened security on Tuesday a day after gunmen killed seven pilgrims and wounded 19 others before fleeing in the night.

Police said the gunmen first attacked an armored police vehicle and a police patrol Monday night. Police returned fire in both incidents and the gunmen responded before bullets struck the bus carrying 60 Hindus returning from paying obeisance at the shrine inside the mostly Muslim region.

Several people who were wounded said the attackers fired at the bus from three directions for nearly five minutes. They said the driver kept driving the bus as it was being struck with bullets near the southern town of Anantnag on the main highway linking Kashmir with the rest of India.

The annual summer pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine takes place under heavy security already. Opponents of Indian rule in Kashmir accuse Hindu-majority India of using the pilgrimage as a political statement to bolster its claim to the disputed region.

Thousands of Indian army and paramilitary soldiers are deployed on the route to the cave shrine high in the Himalayas each summer. The bus was violating nighttime travel restrictions imposed because security patrols are withdrawn after sunset, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

More security was provided Tuesday for the buses that carry pilgrims to base camps where they start walking up a mountain path to the Amarnath cave.

Police were still searching for the assailants Tuesday. They have blamed Muslim militants but no group has claimed responsibility. Three top separatist leaders in Kashmir have condemned the attack.

Officials say most of the wounded pilgrims were released from hospitals after overnight treatment. The seven bodies were airlifted to New Delhi for the journey to the pilgrims' home states of Gujarat and Maharashtra in western India.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that "India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and the evil designs of hate."

Separatist leaders demanded an independent investigation into the attack on pilgrims, which is rare in this insurgency-wracked region.

"This incident goes against the very grain of Kashmiri ethos," three top separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammed Yasin Malik said in a joint statement in Srinagar, the main city of Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The Press Trust of India said the last major attack on Amarnath pilgrims occurred in 2000 when gunmen struck in the Pahalgam area and killed 30 people, including some local porters who carry the baggage of pilgrims on the mountain path.

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Thousands of Hindus continued a religious pilgrimage in Indian-controlled Kashmir under heightened security on Tuesday a day after gunmen killed seven pilgrims and wounded 19 others before fleeing in the night.Police said the gunmen first attacked an armored police vehicle...
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2017-11-11
Tuesday, 11 July 2017 05:11 AM
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