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|July 9, 1998||
Harkatul Mujaheedin 'bans' Amarnath YatraMukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
The Harkatul Mujaheedin has imposed what it called a "ban" on this year's Amarnath Yatra that began two days ago.
In a statement, the organisation, earlier called the Harkatul Ansar, threatened the pilgrims with "serious consequences".
The organisation has "banned" the yatra again after two years. Earlier, for two consecutive years, in 1994 and 1995, the organisation had similarly expressed its displeasure. The administration, however, made tight security arrangements to ensure the safety of the pilgrims.
According to the militant group's statement, "We have information that specially trained commandos from Russia and Israel in the garb of the pilgrims with latest communication equipment and arms have entered Kashmir to destroy the Harkatul Mujaheedin."
Police sources have said that security forces had defused three powerful explosive devices planted near Sheshnag on the yatra route.
A senior state official said the state administration has made "foolproof" security arrangements all along the tough 80-km trek from Pahalgam to Amarnath. He said that army personnel had been deployed from Pahalgam, the base camp, up to the Amarnath cave. The paramilitary Border Security Force was guarding the highway from Banihal to Pahalgam, he said, adding, "We will not allow anyone to disturb the pilgrimage," he said.
After the death of 400 pilgrims in 1996 following heavy snowfall en route, the yatra now begins a month earlier and only a limited number of pilgrims are allowed to go from Pahalgam to the cave.
This year, the administration has allowed the pilgrims to visit the cave via the short Baltel route. The police officer said adequate security arrangements have been made on that route too.
"We are expecting over 80,000 pilgrims this year. We won't allow anyone to disturb the pilgrims. The entire trek from Pahalgam up to the holy cave has been sanitised by the security forces," he said.
Senior state officials reviewed the yatra arrangements this evening soon after the explosives were found.
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