Srinagar/New Delhi: Monday night’s attack on the Amarnath pilgrims was masterminded by top Lashkar-e-Tayyaba commander Abu Ismail, who is known to operate in South Kashmir, the J&K cop and the Centre claimed on Tuesday, but the Lashkar, however, denied this.
The attack is believed to have been carried out by two groups of militants that targeted the bus twice within a distance of 75 meters, the intelligence and security agencies revealed at a high-level meeting chaired by Union home minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Tuesday, where national security adviser Ajit Doval was also present.
Denying the claim that Lashkar was behind the attack, its spokesman Abdullah Ghaznavi said in a statement issued to a news agency in J&K that the attack was a “highly reprehensible act”.
He said, “Islam does not allow violence against any faith. We strongly condemn such acts.” Reacting to the claim earlier by IGP (Kashmir Range) Munir Ahmed Khan about LeT involvement, Ghaznavi said Kashmiris have never targeted any pilgrim. “This barbarity and atrocity is the trademark of the Indian forces,” he alleged.
The meeting chaired by the home minister, sources said, was also told the bus was not part of the security convoy as it had halted to replace a punctured tyre. A report sent by the state police had also said that since the bus was travelling without proper security cover, it had become a “soft target” for the militants who were apparently closely monitoring the movement of convoys of Amarnath pilgrims. The possibility of some local operatives providing help to the militants has not been ruled out.
Top security sources said the Centre had given a clear directive to the security forces to launch a massive hunt for Abu Ismail and other members of the module involved in Monday’s terror attack.