Eyewitnesses say masked men fired at bus where no government forces were, and escaped in Alto car
Anantnag: A flat tyre followed by shopping at Sangam for cricket bats left the ill-fated bus carrying Amarnath Yatris alone on the national highway, beyond the scheduled hours for the Yatra, in the evening dark. Sources in the police and army told Kashmir Reader that the bus had a flat tyre somewhere on the way to Anantnag.
“After mending the tyre, the yatris made the driver stop at Sangam to purchase some cricket bats,” an army officer told Kashmir Reader.
He said that the injured yatris narrated the sequence of events to him.
The officer was part of the army team that reached the spot within minutes of the shootout, which took place only about 200 meters ahead of probably the biggest army camp in south Kashmir, headquarters of 1 RR (Rashtriya Rifles).
As per the police and army officers, the Jammu-bound bus was fired at from its right side. On the right side of the national highway is a narrow by-lane leading into Battengo village.
“They used the same route to escape,” the officials said.
Local eyewitnesses, however, told Kashmir Reader that the gunmen fired from behind the tall cannabis bushes on the Jhelum banks, falling on the left side of the moving bus.
“They were three or four of them, masked. They fled in an Alto car and a Maruti-800 was following them as well,” a local youth who witnessed the attack told Kashmir Reader.
The government forces guarding the national highway during the yatra are withdrawn at about 7 PM, the cutoff time for movement of pilgrim vehicles.
“There were no government forces here when the firing took place,” a local told Kashmir Reader.
The driver of the bus, in face of the indiscriminate fire, did not halt the bus and kept driving till the Khannabal roundabout, some 500 meters from the spot of the attack.
“It was there that the dead bodies were taken out and the injured rushed to hospitals,” a senior police official said.
Sixteen of the injured were rushed to Anantnag district hospital and about 15 to the army hospital at 1 RR headquarters.
Many locals had already reached Anantnag hospital and volunteered to help the injured and donate blood.
The volunteers stayed throughout the night and left only after the injured were airlifted to Delhi at about 4 AM Tuesday morning.
Battengoo village witnessed a complete shutdown today with only forces and media personnel visible on ground. The locals had locked themselves indoors.