Fifteen people, many of them pilgrims on their way to the Buddha Amarnath shrine, were injured in a blast outside a bus stand in Poonch town around 8 pm on Saturday. While it’s not clear what caused the blast, police suspect that a hand grenade was hurled at pilgrims. The blast occurred close to the Dashnami Akhara, where most of the pilgrims arriving from Jammu halt for the night, before starting their journey to Buddha Amarnath the next morning.
Two persons, including the driver of a Tata Sumo, have been detained. The duo have been identified as Ghulam Abbas, the driver, and Liaqat Ali, both residents of Ajote. The blast reportedly occurred as soon as their vehicle passed the area.
The incident comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a strong message to Pakistan, indicting it for fomenting trouble in Kashmir. He told an all-party meeting that “when we talk about Jammu and Kashmir, we should talk about Jammu, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.” Police sources said since the blast occurred at night, there were few people in the area outside the bus stand. During the day, the area is usually crowded.
Last week, security was stepped up in the border town, after posters were put up warning of “targeted killings” against the Hindu community. These posters asked Kashmiri Pandits and “RSS agents” to leave the area.
Following the protests in Kashmir over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, there have been bandhs in some areas of Poonch district also. Pro-azadi slogans were raised during bandhs in Surankote and Mendhar, in Poonch district, in support of protests in the Valley.
Meanwhile, security personnel have stepped up vigil across the state ahead of Independence Day, following intelligence inputs about terrorists planning strikes to avenge Wani’s death.
On Friday, army personnel carried out searches in Kaluchak area, on the outskirts of Jammu city, following information about some suspicious movement. A massive combing operation was also launched in the forests along the Line of Control, in Sawjjian sector of Poonch.