At least 16 Amarnath pilgrims were killed and over 30 injured when a bus skidded off the Jammu-Srinagar national highway and rolled down into a deep nullah in Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, officials said.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Ramban, Mohan Lal said the bus skidded off the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway close to Banihal, turned turtle and rolled down into the gorge.
Police said that in the afternoon one yatra bus bearing registration No. Jk02Y-0594 fell into Nashrana Nallah in which about 40-42 yatris were travelling.
According to the police, the bus carrying the pilgrims skidded off the road, turned turtle and rolled down into the nullah at Nachlana belt of Ramban late this afternoon. Traffic movement on Jammu-Srinagar national highway has been stopped temporarily due to landslides at Khuni Nallah and Ramsoo.
Rescue operation has been launched by police and the Ramban administration.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has expressed deep shock and grief over the death of Amarnath yatris in the tragic road accident on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.
The accident comes just few days after eight Amarnath yatris were killed in a terrorist attack in Kashmir's Anantnag district. Seven people, including six women, were killed and 19 injured when terrorists attacked a bus full of Amarnath pilgrims in near Khanabal in Anantnag district on Monday (July 10) night. Another woman yatri succumbed to her injuries on July 16.
The attack on the bus (GJ 09 Z 9976) was part of a series of strikes that first targeted security personnel. A woman who was injured in the terror attack on a bus carrying Amarnath yatra pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir, died at a Srinagar hospital today, police said. The number of people killed in the Anantnag district terror attack on July 10 has reached eight now.
Lalita Ben, 47, who was in the bus that came under attack, was taken to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences or SKIMS in Srinagar, where she died of injuries, a police officer said.
The bus that was fired on was registered in Gujarat. Police sources said that it had violated the rules of the pilgrimage which bans buses from travelling on a highway after 7 pm for security reasons.
The bus was also reportedly not part of the official tour for the yatra which means that it was not given the customary police protection.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police have said the attack was carried out by terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The police have constituted a Special Investigation Team or SIT to probe the terror attack. The SIT is headed by Swayam Paraksh Pani, Deputy Inspector General of Police South Kashmir.
Mr Pani, with the reputation of an ace investigator, has worked in the National Investigating Agency or NIA for a long time and investigated crucial terror cases.
Unprecedented protests had also erupted in Kashmir valley against the terror attack. Anger poured on the streets as civil society groups and traders came together to denounce the attack and demanded stern action against the killers.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, seeing the public anger against the attack, had said nobody can kill Kashmiriyat.
"It's good to see that people of Jammu and Kashmir are together. When the incident took place, the people of Kashmir went to give blood. This was a direct attack on our brotherhood. Nobody could kill Kashmiriyat, I salute our Kashmir people," Ms Mufti had said.