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Major tragedy on Amarnath pilgrimage route averted

Major tragedy on Amarnath pilgrimage route averted

Author: IANS
Publication: The New Indian Express
Date: July 19, 2005
URL: http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEP20050718064754&Title=States&rLink=0

A major tragedy was averted during the Amarnath pilgrimage in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday with the timely detection of three explosive devices planted along the highway for the pilgrims, police said.

The improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were planted in and around Ganderbal town, 22 km from this summer capital of Kashmir, on the Srinagar-Baltal highway that thousands of pilgrims travel every day on their way to the Amarnath cave shrine.

Schools in Ganderbal closed immediately after news of the IEDs spread. Shops, banks and business establishments in the area also shut down.

"One IED placed close to a school was detonated by us. Two others, one near the forest office and the other in the market square of Behama (town) on the Srinagar-Baltal highway was removed by the army's bomb disposal squad," said an officer at the Ganderbal police station.

Police officers then went around the town persuading shopkeepers and vehicle owners to resume their normal activities as the threat was over.

Extraordinary security measures are in place along the 84 km highway linking Srinagar to the Baltal base camp for the Amarnath pilgrimage.

The base camp is located on the strategic Srinagar-Leh national highway that links the Kashmir Valley to the strategic Ladakh region.

The Sonamarg hill station that is thronged by hundreds of tourists daily is located close by. Road opening parties comprising bomb disposal squads and sniffer dogs move out every morning to sanitize the highway and one of these parties detected the IEDs, police said.

Significantly, the Ganderbal sub-district was said to have been "cleared of militants' presence". The ability of separatist guerrillas to plant as many as three IEDS on this "most secured highway" in a single day has exploded that myth, a police officer said.

"This changes the entire security scenario in the area. We shall have to make a fresh appraisal of the entire situation there," the officer added.

Meanwhile, masked gunmen on Monday afternoon fired at a shopkeeper, identified as Javaid Ahmad, in Arweeni village of south Kashmir's Anantnag district, 75 km from here, killing him on the spot.

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