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August 1, 2000
27 killed as ultras strike in Pahalgam
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
At least 27 persons, most of them Amarnath-bound pilgrims, were killed and 36 others were injured, many critically, in heavy shooting in the health resort town of Pahalgam late Tuesday evening.
The authorities imposed curfew and increased security following the attack.
Seventeen of the victims were pilgrims, six local residents, two security officials and two militants.
The pilgrims were identified as Naresh Goyal, his daughter Niha, son Gittu (all from Meerut), Hazara Singh (from Pathankhot), Niranjan Puri and a sadhu, Narayanan.
The policemen were Irshad Ahmed and Surjeet Singh.
The militants were killed in the heavy exchange of fire that followed between militants and security forces, a senior police officer said.
He said the armed militants suddenly appeared at the heavily guarded Pahalgam base camp of the cave shrine-bound pilgrims and opened fire.
The militants, sources said, fired indiscriminately near a hotel, on the pilgrims and a camp of the Central Reserved Police Force near River Lidder in Pahalgam, which was humming with activity as hundreds on their way to the shrine were stranded following heavy rain along the 40 km dirt track.
The sources said the militants lobbed six hand-grenades and followed it by heavy firing. Security forces deployed around the health resort retaliated.
This is the first major strike by Kashmiri militants in Pahalgam during the yatra.
In 1994, the Harkatul Ansar had banned the pilgrimage.
Even though there was no 'ban' this year, the Jammu and Kashmir government had made elaborate arrangements for the safety of pilgrims. Thousands of army and paramilitary personnel, besides police, were deployed in Pahalgam.
The entire area, a police officer said, was sanitised, days before the yatra began on July 15.
No one has owned responsibility for the attack.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah has condemned the killing.
Police said that the pilgrims came from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Orissa.
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