Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
Eleven persons were killed in a big explosion near Sheshnag on the heavily guarded route to the Amarnath cave.
Among those killed were two police officers, including a deputy superintendent of police. The other casualties were a militant, three civilians and five pilgrims, including three women.
Fourteen others, including five policemen, sustained injuries in the blast, which occurred in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday.
The pilgrims who sustained injuries were identified by police sources as:
The yatra has been temporarily suspended after the blast, with 300 pilgrims being stopped at Anantnag from going on to Pahalgam. No more pilgrims are being allowed to proceed from Jammu either.
Sheshnag, where the blast occurred, is 28km from southern Kashmir. The lake, situated 3,352 metres above sea level, is the second camp site on the 48km trek from the health resort of Pahalgam to the cave shrine.
According to the police, a minor blast took place about half a kilometre away from the pilgrims' camp at 0200 IST. When police personnel rushed to the spot, a bigger explosion took place, followed by firing.
Deputy Superintendent Praveen Kumar was killed on the spot, while Sub-Inspector Mohammed Safi Akbar died of his wounds later.
Army personnel have cordoned the area and a massive search has been mounted.
Around 3,000 Amarnath-bound pilgrims had camped for the night at Sheshnag after crossing the Pissu top at a height of 3,377 metres. Traditionally, the pilgrims take a dip in the waters of Lake Sheshnag and camp along its banks through the night.
The pilgrims then resume their trek early in the morning, aiming to cross the Hamagunas peak (4276m) and reach Panjtarni for darshan [viewing] at the cave shrine early next morning.
The state administration had put into place stringent security arrangements, including the shifting of the base camp to Nunwan, along the route. Last year, 35 pilgrims had died in a heavy exchange of fire between militants and the Central Reserve Police Force at Pahalgam.
An estimated 100,000 pilgrims have already had darshan at the shrine.
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