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Hindu pilgrims killed in militant attack in Kashmir

image copyrightAFP
image captionThousands of Hindu pilgrims make the journey to the Amarnath Cave each year

Seven Hindu pilgrims, six of them women, have been killed in a militant attack in Indian-administered Kashmir after their bus apparently got caught in crossfire.

The bus was returning from the Amarnath Cave pilgrimage site in the Anantnag district when the attack took place.

Police told the BBC the target appeared to be a nearby counter-insurgency base.

The attack, which also left 19 injured, is likely to heighten tensions in the disputed region.

Hardline Hindu groups linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party have long wanted to see tough action against the armed revolt against Indian rule in the Muslim-majority region.

At the scene, Zubair Ahmed, BBC Hindi

Amid emotional scenes at the police line in Anantnag, many pilgrims who survived the attack say they are lucky to be alive.

The district hospital was full of injured survivors.

The owner of the bus, Harsh Desai, was among the injured.

"I saw five to six gunmen right in front of our bus. They were firing indiscriminately and throwing stones at our bus. I told the driver not to stop and just keep driving," he told the BBC.

Nearly all the survivors praised the driver, who did not stop the vehicle and got them to safety, only stopping near an army convoy 2km (1.24 miles) away. Many say that without him, the death toll would have been much higher.

An elderly woman said her sister who was sitting next to her and a man behind her both died in the attack, though she did not suffer any injuries.

News of the attack has already sparked anger with people demanding immediate retaliation on behalf of the pilgrims, most of whom came from Gujarat, Mr Modi's home state.

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Mr Modi tweeted he was "pained beyond words", adding: "India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and the evil designs of hate."

The attack has also been condemned by separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, whose spokesman called it "an act of terror", while outlawed armed group Lashkar-e-Toiba distanced itself from the attack, saying "it was aimed at bringing a bad name to the Kashmiri movement".

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who stayed overnight with the wounded, all of whom were out of danger, promised that her forces "would not spare" those involved.

The attack comes after some hardline separatist leaders said they welcomed the pilgrims - about 100,000 of whom have already completed the journey - as their fight is not with ordinary Indians.

One police source told the BBC the bus was not properly registered, and should have been off the road by the time of the attack, at 20:20 local time (14:50 GMT) on Monday.

Related Topics

  • Kashmir
  • India
  • Hinduism

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