Just days before attack, intel warned of specific terror threat to Amarnath Yatra to flare up communal tension
As the nation comes to terms with the horrific attack that claimed the lives of seven Amarnath pilgrims and injured 19 others, the reactions to the attack have been mixed, with some faulting the pilgrims who were travelling well beyond the permitted time of 7 PM and others terming it a security failure.
What validates this claim is the fact that there was a specific input by intelligence agencies that warned of an attack very similar to the one that saw militants targeting a bus carrying Amarnath Yatra pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district at around 8.20 PM on Monday.
There was credible intelligence input that militants will attack the tourists visiting the state to take part in the holy yatra during the month of Shravan.
A letter dated June 25, signed by IGI Kashmir Zone, clearly spells out the intelligence warning of terrorists targettng the Amarnath Yatra. The letter was sent to IG CRPF Operations Kashmir, IG Administration CRPF Srinagar, Headquarters 15 Corps. BB Srinagar and All Range DIsG of K/Zone.
Titled ‘ Most Urgent Top Secret’, the letter said that terrorists were planning to kill 150 pilgrims and around 100 police officials. It had even noted that the attack maybe in the form of standoff fire on pilgrimage which militants believe will result in flaring of communal tension.
“Intelligence input received from SSP Anantang reveals that the terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers/officials. The attack may be in the form of standoff fire on yatra convoy which they believe will result in flaring of communal tensions throughout the nation,” the letter reads.
“The input is assessed to be a HUMINT. Though nature of input needs further corroboration, at this stage the possibility of some sensational attack by terrorist outfit cannot be ruled out. All the officers/officials deployed on ground need to be directed to remain and maintain utmost vigil and take all precautionary measures to defeat the nefarious designs of these anti-national elements. All outfit efforts needs to be taken to nab the terrorist who are planning such attempts of violence,” it further reads.
The 40-day-long pilgrimage began last month under tight security including additional paramilitary forces that the Centre had provided to the state government for peaceful conduct of the yatra. The attack took place despite the Army, Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the state police providing multi-layered security to the pilgrims. Also heavily fortified security force camps were established both at Baltal and Pahalgam base camps.
Reports pegged the number of security personnel mobilised in the area at around 35,000 to 40,000 including the police, Army, BSF and CRPF. In addition to the existing strength of the CRPF in the state, the Centre had also provided over 250 companies (25,000 personnel) of paramilitary forces to the state government. While the BSF had deployed over 2,000 troops for the yatra, the Army had provided 5 battalions (about 5000 personnel) and additional 54 companies (5400 personnel) of the police.
According to reports, the bus was not part of the official Amarnath Yatra tour, hence the vehicle that was not escorted by security forces. Also, the movement of buses and other vehicles on the route are not allowed after 7 pm because the area is considered stronghold of LeT and Hizbul.
The Congress has accused the Centre of a security lapse leading to the incident. “If there were intelligence inputs on 25th June that Amarnath Yatra would be attacked, why no preventive measures were taken? This is a matter of serious security lapse on the part of Government and security forces,” party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told ANI.