Jammu and Kashmir police on Sunday claimed that they had cracked the case of the attack on an Amarnath Yatra bus, in which eight pilgrims were killed, and arrested three youths who allegedly helped the four Lashkar-e-Toiba militants involved in the attack. The police said the three — identified as Bilal Reshi, a shopkeeper from Bijbehara, Ajaz Ahmad, a medical representative from Sringufwara, and Zahoor Ahmad, a contractual state road transport corporation driver —had given “logistics support” to the Lashkar terrorists, three of whom are from Pakistan and one from Hablish in Kulgam district.
The police said the militants wanted to target either an isolated CRPF vehicle or a bus carrying pilgrims, whichever came their way. “I am happy to tell you that after the hard work put in by our officers and the SIT, three accused persons have been arrested and they have revealed everything,” Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Munir Khan, said at a news meet on Sunday. “The investigation had revealed that Ismail, a Pakistani terrorist of the Lashkar, along with two Pakistani terrorists and one local Kashmiri terrorist, carried out the attack,” Munir Khan said.
Asked if the militants wanted a flare-up of communal tension by attacking the pilgrims, Khan said the pilgrims weren’t the focus of the attack. “It was purely a terrorist act,” he said. “They had planned for a CRPF vehicle or a pilgrim bus. Unfortunately, that day the pilgrim bus came.” The militants attacked the bus on July 10 near Botengoo when it was on its way to Jammu. IGP Khan said that while they knew from the first day that Lashkar militants were involved in the attack, the three arrested local youths have revealed how it was planned.
“Initially, they (militants) had planned (the attack) on July 9 but that day there was no movement of any CRPF or yatra vehicle in isolation,” he said. “They had code words for a CRPF vehicle and a yatra vehicle. The code word for a CRPF vehicle was Bilal and the code word for a yatri vehicle was Showkat,” the officer said. He said the local youths worked as the militants’ guides and provided them logistic support such as shelters and vehicles— two cars and a motorcycle.
The Kashmir police chief said they were close to nabbing the four Lashkar militants. “They are Ismail, Maviya, Furqan and Yawar Bashir. Yawar, a resident of Hablish, joined the militants on February 1, 2017. Before that, he was a student of Darul Aloom Bilaliya in Srinagar and stole the weapon of a policeman at Hazratbal in Srinagar,” IGP Khan said.
While the police had blamed the Lashkar for the attack from Day One , many in the Valley didn’t believe it. On Sunday, IGP Khan acknowledged that questions were being raised about the motive and the identity of the attackers. “There was so much speculation. There was speculation in the media, speculation in our circle also, everywhere. Fingers were being raised, suspicions (created),” he said. “But now everything is clear. These are the guys who were involved”.