July 2001 News

Attack on Amarnath yatris shocks Armed Forces

23 July 2001
The Times of India

SESHNAG: Armed forces appear to have been foxed by the recent attack by militants on Amarnath pilgrims here and say this has happened despite they being convinced that the security has been fool-proof. ''The incident was shocking to say the least after the measures we took, including shifting of base camp to Nunwa and cordoning off the hills around the yatra route to prevent sneaking in of militants,'' armed forces sources said. They said the bomb blast could be the result of the renewed vigour with which the terrorists were expected to strike after the deadlock at the indo-pak summit. Nevertheless the attack on pilgrims was being looked at with shock and disbelief by the armed forces personnel considering that more than 15,000 of them had been deployed for yatra purposes from Jammu to Amarnath cave, they added. ''This year we were confident of supervising the yatra as violence free but it was not to be,'' they said. Security was being coordinated between the Army, Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and the J&K police (JKP) with roles specifically earmarked for them. Armed personnel said multiple layers of cordons had been formed around the yatra route in order to ensure that even if one of them is breached, terrorist attacks are taken care of. They said military had formed the outer cordon to prevent any influx of the militants into the yatra route which was being directly looked after by the CRPF and BSF in conjunction with the JKP. State-of-the- art equipment and gadgets were also being used for checking both pilgrims and officials at different stages of the route, while the base camp to begin the yatra had been shifted to Nunwa from Pahalgam on security grounds, they added. To organise an attack on the pilgrims at 13,500 feet, 12 km from Chandanwari the nearest motorable place required immense logistics, they felt. They suspected that militants were using the guise of pilgrims, particularly sadhus, to vitiate the yatra atmosphere forcing the personnel to take extra precaution in future. Sadhus are generally exempted from showing the yatra identity cards and roam about freely during the course of the pilgrimage. All others involved in the yatra, including pilgrims, officials and security personnel, have their separate identity cards. Residents of the areas along the route also have their Indian identity cards and these include shopkeepers, tent and horse owners and pithus (labourers). This had been the first attack on the pilgrims of the current Amarnath yatra which had also been gripped by violence during a firing at the Pahalgam camp last year.


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