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India: After Kashmir attack, Delhi on high alert

Tuesday 11 July 2017, by siawi3


Amarnath yatra terror attack: Delhi on high alert, Kanwarias to get security cover

July 11, 2017 10 hours ago

Pilgrims returning from Amarnath shrine were attacked by terrorists in Anantnag, J&K, on Monday. Delhi police declared high alert in the Capital and increased security at vital installations across the city.

Within hours of terror attack in Jammu & Kashmir that left seven pilgrims dead and several injured, the Delhi police issued an advisory putting the Capital on high alert and advising security cover for Kanwar Yatra. The yatra started on Monday where thousands of devotes will undertake the annual pilgrimage on foot from Haridwar and pass Delhi till July 21.

According to the advisory issued by anti-terror unit special cell’s DCP, Pramod Kuswah, ‘special anti terror’ arrangements have been advised for Kanwar Yatra. “In view of the terrorist attack at Anantnag on pilgrims and security forces during the Amarnath Yatra, it is advised that proper anti-terror arrangements should be put in place at all vital installations, business establishments and other vulnerable targets, including crowded markets, malls, religious places, metro stations, airport, railway stations…” the advisory reads.

The DCP has also instructed the local police to put quick reaction teams on the route.

Police sources said commandos will guard the routes across parts of north and north east Delhi, from where Kanwars enter the city. Temporary towers with snipers will also be placed on the route along with SWAT vehicles, which will be able to deal with any situation.



Militant attack raises questions about security in India’s Kashmir Valley

Photo: An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard Tuesday as Amarnath bounded pilgrims entering the Amarnath base camp in Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir. (Jaipal Singh/European Pressphoto Agency)

By Ishfaq Naseem and Vidhi Doshi

July 11 at 1:43 PM

SRINAGAR — She had come to pray.

Pushpa Gosawi was on a bus traveling through the Himalayas when she heard gunfire thunder around her. Gosawi recalls being “terrified” as she witnessed her fellow pilgrims being felled by bullets. “I saw the other people in a pool of blood in the bus, and I was in an utter shock,” she said, now in a hospital bed.

Gosawi was one of several injured Monday evening when a bus ferrying pilgrims from the holy Hindu Amarnath shrine in disputed Indian-administered Kashmir territory died in a shootout between militants and police. Seven people, six of them women, died in the crossfire, authorities said.

Monday’s ambush drew widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Pained beyond words on the dastardly attack on peaceful Amarnath Yatris in J&K. The attack deserves strongest condemnation from everyone.” (Yatri is the Hindi word meaning pilgrims.)

Kashmiri police have named Abu Ismail, from a Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for coordinating the attack. LeT is also accused of coordinating the 2008 Mumbai attacks at a number of prominent landmarks, including the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

The arduous Amarnath pilgrimage brings over 215,000 people to the cavernous peaks of the Himalayas every year. They come to pray to a dome-shaped icicle in the Amarnath cave which appears for a few weeks every year, before melting away in the sun. Believers say it is the place where the Hindu god Shiva whispered the secret of his immortality to his wife.

Though militants are active in the mountains of war-torn Kashmir, they have usually spared Amarnath pilgrims as a mark of respect for the Hindu faith, although 17 pilgrims were among 25 who died in an attack in 2000. Weather can also put the pilgrims in peril.

The attack happened only weeks after the brutal lynching of police officer Mohammed Ayub Pandith, killed at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar, by a mob which was supposedly chanting slogans in favor of militant Zakir Musa. Even prominent separatist militants, such as the recently slain Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani, have in the past vowed not to disturb the sanctity of the pilgrimage.

On Tuesday evening, Kashmiris gathered in the streets holding posters and signs to condemn the attack. Top separatist leader and president of Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party, Shabir Ahmad Shah, said that the militant attack belied the “tradition of communal brotherhood’’ that the people of Kashmir have upheld over the decades.

According to reports, security had been beefed up for this year’s pilgrimage after the killing of Wani in crossfire with police in July 2016 prompted a year of intensified violence in the valley. Drones, dog squads and bulletproof bunkers were prepared; as many as 40,000 troops would man the highways as the convoy of pilgrims passed through.

But manning the pilgrims’ route is a herculean task, said Shukla. Pilgrims travel 200 miles by road from Jammu, and then hike through snow-capped peaks to reach the holy cave. “All of this is open mountain terrain. It is very difficult to dominate,” he said.

The most recent attack on pilgrims happened in 2000, when 25 people were killed at Pahlgam, a base camp town for pilgrims.

The bus carrying Gosawi should never have been there, authorities said. Anantnag District Police Chief Altaf Ahmad Khan said the pilgrims had not followed security protocol and were not traveling as part of the convoy escorting pilgrims. “The sequence of events was such that militants attacked a police party from an alley. The pilgrims probably didn’t hear gunshots, and the vehicle, which was traveling fast, came under fire,” he said.

The attack has become yet another point-scoring exercise for India’s hard-liners. Many on social media used the attack to weigh the cost of Muslim lives against Hindu ones. “The brutal killing of innocent Amarnath pilgrims is worse than 100 lynchings,” said Bharti Jain, a newspaper editor, referring to a series of recent lynchings of Muslims, in a now deleted tweet.

In recent weeks, a number of lynchings targeting Indian Muslims brought thousands of protesters to the street, and even drew criticism from Modi, who has been slow to criticize the rise of attacks by vigilante Hindu groups. Shukla said that rising Islamophobia in India was having a direct impact on Kashmiri militancy. “They are asking: ’Why are we being so accepting when the rest of India is not.’”

Vidhi Doshi reported from New Delhi.



International community condemns attack on Amarnath pilgrims

PTI | Jul 11, 2017, 11.22 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Condemnation against the Amarnath attack poured in from the international community on Tuesday, with the US and Iran deploring the strike and the UK, Germany, France and Bangladesh expressing their solidarity with India in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

While Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrote to her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, condemning the “heinous” terror attack on Amarnath pilgrims and reaffirming her country’s support to India at this “difficult hour”, Nepal’s foreign affairs ministry, in a release, also strongly denounced the terrorist attack and expressed its condolences.

Strongly condemning the terror attack targeting a bus of pilgrims, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said, “being enemies of civilisation and humanity, terrorists don’t respect any religion and law but in order to disseminate terror and hate, they target sacred locations and civilians including women and children.”

Afghanistan, which is at the front-line in the fight against terrorism, has always evinced its honesty and valor in counter-terrorism efforts, once again stressing on putting up a collective and earnest fight against terrorism through a unified strategy, a statement from the Afghan President’s office said.

The UK’s acting High Commissioner to India, Alexander Evans, also condemned the attack. “The UK stands resolutely with India in the fight against terror,” he tweeted.

In a message, Pavel Dorokhin, member of state duma and deputy chairman of India-Russia inter-parliamentary committee, said, “on behalf of all our deputies in the state duma, I convey our deep condolences on the terrorist attack in J&K yesterday. Russia stands united against terrorism and terrorism cannot be justified.”

Dorokhin further said, “our joint efforts and unity in developing our cooperation will be the basis for ensuring security in Eurasia.”

“We deplore the attack on #Amarnath pilgrims & condemn all acts of terrorism. Deepest condolences to the families & all those affected,” the US ambassador’s official Twitter handle posted.

The US has appointed Kenneth I Juster as its ambassador to India, but he is yet to take office.

France sent out a message of solidarity. “France assures the people and authorities of India of its solidarity in face of terrorism. During their meeting in Paris on 3rd June this year, the French President and Modi, had declared counter- terrorism to be a priority of our strategic partnership,” said the spokesperson of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.

German Ambassador Martin Ney in his message said he strongly condemned the terrorist attack on behalf of his government. He also conveyed deepest condolences to the families of the victims.

“Germany resolutely stands by India in the fight against terrorism and extremism,” Ney said.

“As the G20 leaders just reaffirmed in Hamburg, we are resolved to tackle terrorism as a common challenge to the global community,” he noted.

In a tweet, Norwegian Ambassador Nils Ragnar Kamsvag said, “Norway condemns cowardly #AmarnathTerrorAttack . #AmarnathYatra represents faith and pilgrimage. Our condolences to the families @MEAIndia”

Hasina reiterated Bangladesh’s “zero tolerance” policy against terrorism and vowed to continue to work together with India to eradicate the menace, a Bangladesh embassy release said here.

The Embassy of Iran said in a release that it “condemns in the strongest possible words the Monday night terror attack on the Amarnath pilgrims.” The embassy also extended condolences to the Indian government and families of victims.

“Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba strongly condemns the attack on innocent pilgrims, expresses deep condolences & sympathies to the Indian government and its people,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay tweeted.

In another tweet, he said, “Maldives Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim strongly condemns #AmarnathTerrorAttack in letter to External Affairs Minister @SushmaSwaraj. (He) Says committed to fight terrorism.”

Canadian High Commissioner to India, Nadir Patel tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the senseless attacks on #AmarnathYatra Canada condemns all acts of terror @CanadainIndia.”

Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Bhutan also condemned the terror attack in which seven Amarnath pilgrims were killed and 19 injured when their bus came under heavy gunfire from terrorists in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district last night.

The bus, bearing a Gujarat registration number, was on its way from Baltal to Jammu when the attack took place.



India: Statement by Peace Activists Condemning Attack in Kashmir on Pilgrims on Amarnath Yatra - 11 July 2017

Peace Activists Condemn Attack on Amarnath Yatris

We strongly condemn the firing on the bus carrying Amarnath Yatris which ended in the tragic death of seven pilgrims and injury to 18 others.

There can be no justification for any violence and killing, much less of unarmed, innocent people. The victims were not men in uniform, able to return fire, but unarmed civilians making a journey that was sacred to them.

We urge the militants to immediately stop targeting and attacking unarmed civilians. In 2016, when the valley was under the grips of high level of violence, local Kashmiris had come to the aid of the stranded Yatirs, gave them shelter and sent them home safely. The killing of the Yatris goes against the grain of Kashmiri ethos of religious tolerance.

We also call upon the Government of India to immediately set up an independent enquiry into this tragic incident as it is not clear how this bus carrying a large number of Amarnath Yatris had no security cover and how it was able to travel around Kashmir during these difficult days without the knowledge of the authorities. It is necessary to identify the lapses in the security arrangements and establish the facts that led to this tragedy of the bus carrying pilgrims getting caught in a crossfire between the police and the militants. This is necessary to prevent any such tragedy in future.

We also urge the government to start a process of dialogue and consultation with all the stake holders that alone could isolate the elements propagating and resorting to violence and bring peace to a region devastated by unnecessary conflict for decades.

Anuradha Bhasin - Jammu,
Harsh Mandar - Delhi,
Jatin Desai - Mumbai,
Mazher Hussain - Hyderabad,
Ravi Nair - Delhi,
Sandeep Panday - Lucknow,
Tapan Bose - Delhi