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Amarnath Yatra pilgrims asked to leave Kashmir after terror threat

The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday asked Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to leave the state fearing an attack by Pakistan-based terrorists

Press Trust of India 

Hindu pilgrims leave the holy cave of Lord Shiva after worshipping in Amarnath, southeast of Srinagar
Principal secretary home asked pilgrims to “curtail their stay in the valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible”

Pakistan-based terrorists are planning to target the ongoing Amarnath Yatra, the army said on Friday citing intelligence inputs, prompting the Jammu and Kashmir administration to ask the yatris and tourists to "curtail" their stay in the Valley and leave immediately.

Stating that weapons and explosives have been recovered along the yatra route, a top army official said security forces are geared up to foil any attempt to attack the pilgrimage. The yatra commenced on July 1 and is set to conclude on August 15.

General Officer Commanding(GoC) of Army's 15 Corps Lt General KJS Dhillon's said searches in the past few days by security forces led to the recovery of a Pakistan-made mine and a huge cache of arms.

The Corps commander said Pakistan and its army were desperate to disrupt peace in Kashmir Valley.

"Last three to four days, we were getting specific and confirmed intelligence inputs that terrorists led by Pakistan and Pakistan Army are trying to target the Shri Amarnathji yatra which is going on," Dhillon told a joint press conference with state police chief Dilbagh Singh here. J&K is currently under Governor's rule.

Dhillon said joint teams of security forces launched searches along the twin routes of Baltal and Pahalgam leading to the holy cave and recovered weapons, ammunition and explosives in the operations that have been going on for the past three days.

"We had some major successes during the searches. Some IEDs were recovered which have been neutralised. The searches have yielded an American M-24 (Sniper) rifle and an anti-personnel mine with Pakistan Ordnance factory markings on it, which clearly indicates that Pakistan is involved in terrorism in Kashmir," he said.

"I can assure you on behalf of the security forces here that this will not be allowed to happen. Designs of Pakistan and its army will be foiled at all costs. Nobody can disrupt peace in Kashmir. This is our promise to people of Kashmir and everyone in the nation," he added.

The Governor's administration issued a security advisory, saying pilgrims and tourists "may curtail their stay" and "return as soon as possible".

"Keeping in view the latest intelligence inputs of terror threats, with specific targeting of the Amarnath Yatra, and given the prevailing security situation in the Kashmir Valley, in the interest of safety and security of the tourists and Amarnath Yatris, it is advised that they may curtail their stay in the Valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible," said the advisory by Principal Secretary (Home).

The Conference(NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) said the advisory will trigger panic in the Valley, calling it unprecedented.

"Seriously? You think an official order telling tourists to leave immediately will not cause them to run from the valley as fast as they can? Which tourist will hang around after seeing this order. The airport & highway will be choked with people leaving," he tweeted.

"Although this unprecedented order would seem to suggest a genuine fear of a massive terror strike directed at Amarnath ji yatris or/and tourists this will do nothing to dampen the sense of fear & foreboding that prevails in the valley at the moment." PDP president Mehbooba Mufti alleged that Centre had resorted to "military might" and techniques like "psychological warfare" in the state.

"First the avalanche of private orders about stocking up supplies that somehow made their way into public domain. And now news like this will create panic & distress," Mufti tweeted.

DGP Singh said reports about massive deployment of security forces in the state were exaggerated.

"We have had number of tasks over the past nine months like elections to panchayats, urban local bodies and Parliament. Then the is also going on ... So the forces did not have any rest during this period.

"So some forces are being de-inducted while some are being inducted as replacement. The numbers in the media are exaggerated," Singh said.

Dhillon said the situation along the Line of Control(LoC) now is under control and peaceful.

"Infiltration from Pakistani side is being attempted but these attempts have regularly been foiled. In one of the incidents on July 30, three terrorists were eliminated in Gurez sector. Yesterday night also an infiltration attempt was made in Kupwara sector," he said.

Dhillon said according to available intelligence reports, all the launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir(PoK) are full and infiltrators are attempting to enter through the LoC in Kashmir.

"It is also happening in Poonch-Rajouri. Even infiltration is happening in Jammu to Pathankot sectors.... Infiltration is not down, attempts are being made but they are being dealt with at the LoC," he said.

Singh said Pakistan Army had resorted to ceasefire violations after a gap of four months targeting civilian areas.

"There have been ceasefire violations on July 30, Pakistan army resorted to unprovoked artillery firing which was retaliated in a befitting manner and thereafter they are quiet. In case they attempt again, it would again be replied in a manner better than the previous time," he said, adding the previous ceasefire violation was on March 12.

On the counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland, he said the focus has been on eliminating the leadership of the terror outfits.

"In the last six to seven months, we have been able to eliminate most of the top leadership and the job is still in progress," he said.

The DGP said security forces have been able to eliminate the leadership of Pakistan-based terror groups Lashkar-e-Toiba(LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed(JeM) in the Valley.

First Published: Fri, August 02 2019. 17:15 IST
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