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Amarnath Yatra security alert and scramble

Nine Amarnath yatris died and 19 were injured in 2017 when militants opened fire on a bus

  • Published 20.06.19, 7:28 AM
  • Updated 20.06.19, 7:28 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Amarnath pilgrims. The ministry has asked security officials to conduct aerial surveillance through drones along the 400km yatra route Picture by Shutterstock

Intelligence agencies have alerted the Union home ministry to the possibility of terror attacks targeting security personnel deployed along the Amarnath Yatra route, sources said on Wednesday, less than a fortnight before the annual pilgrimage is set to begin.

A ministry official said “inputs” with security agencies suggest the presence of over 200 militants, including 34 Pakistanis, who could carry out terror attacks during the pilgrimage.

“The latest inputs suggest that terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Hizb-ul Mujahideen are active in the Valley and could target security personnel during the yatra,” the official said.

The 46-day yatra is scheduled to start on July 1.

Nine Amarnath yatris died and 19 were injured in 2017 when militants opened fire indiscriminately on a bus carrying pilgrims in Anantnag district.

Sources said the Amit Shah-led ministry of home affairs (MHA) has decided to directly monitor security arrangements along the yatra route.

“Although the Jammu and Kashmir administration has drawn up a foolproof strategy to ensure an incident-free pilgrimage, the MHA has decided not to leave the entire responsibility to them. The home ministry has asked senior officers in charge of internal security to monitor the yatra arrangements daily and directed them to stay in constant touch with security officials on the ground,” an official in the security establishment said.

The ministry has asked security officials to conduct aerial surveillance through drones along the 400km yatra route.

The pilgrims are set to hit the yatra trail on two routes — the traditional Pahalgam track in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district. The yatra concludes on August 15.

The paramilitary CRPF, the army, local police and other security forces are in charge of ensuring a smooth and incident-free yatra.

An official said the home ministry has also decided to equip with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags all buses and mini-buses that would ferry the pilgrims for better coordination while drones would be pressed into service to keep an eye on the routes.

RFID devices use radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object, the official explained, adding they would be fitted on vehicles during registration for travel to Kashmir for the pilgrimage.

The home ministry has asked security officials to install CCTV cameras along the route and make arrangements for satellite tracking, apart from building bullet-proof bunkers and keeping ready dog squads and quick reaction teams.

Senior officials, led by Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba, reviewed the security arrangements for the yatra on Wednesday.