Terrorists open fire at bus carrying pilgrims; 9 dead, 33 injured

The damaged bus after it plunged into a gorge following an alleged attack by suspected terrorists, in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir, Sunday, June 9, 2024.
The damaged bus after it plunged into a gorge following an alleged attack by suspected terrorists, in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir, Sunday, June 9, 2024.

Jammu | Nine people were killed and 33 injured as terrorists struck a bus carrying pilgrims from Uttar Pradesh in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district on Sunday evening, opening fire on the vehicle which fell into a gorge, a senior police officer said.

The attack occurred on the bus en route from Shiv Khori temple to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine at Katra near Teryath village in the Poni area. The bus, a 53-seater, veered off the road and plunged into a deep gorge following the gunfire at aound 6:15 pm.

"An unfortunate incident occurred and as per the initial reports, the terrorists had laid an ambush and opened fire on the bus which had left Shiv Khori for Katra. The driver lost balance and the vehicle fell into the gorge," Senior Superintendent of Police, Reasi, Mohita Sharma told reporters at the scene.

Sharma said the rescue operation was completed and so far nine persons are dead and 33 others injured in the incident and they have been shifted to different hospitals.

"The identity of the deceased is not clear yet but preliminary reports suggest that they all belong to Uttar Pradesh," the officer said.

Sharma said they usually remain on high alert and have fully secured the Shiv Khori temple with frequent conduct of area domination patrols in the adjoining areas for the past many days.

"We have also started firing practice for the Village Defence Guards and they all have been put on alert," the SSP said.

This attack marks a significant escalation in violence in the region, as the Reasi district had previously been relatively untouched by terrorist activities compared to neighbouring areas like Rajouri and Poonch.

Locals rushed to the site and started assisting the victims. Eyewitnesses shared harrowing accounts of the attack, with one survivor describing how the bus was barraged with 25 to 30 shots before it plunged down the gorge.

Another witness recalled seeing a masked assailant in a red muffler firing on the bus. The injured pilgrims were rushed to Teryath Hospital for treatment.

"We were supposed to leave at 4 pm but the bus left around 5.30 pm and suddenly came under fire," an injured pilgrim from Banaras, admitted to Teryath hospital, said.

Jammu and Kashmir police spokesperson said in a statement that a bus carrying yatris from Shiv Khori to Katra was targeted "apparently by terrorists using firearms" at about 6.10 PM in the Pouni area of Reasi district bordering Rajouri district.

The driver was hit and lost control, resulting in the bus sliding into the nearby gorge.

"With the help of local villagers, police have evacuated all the passengers by 8.10 pm. SP Reasi supervised the evacuation and dispatched the injured to different hospitals.

The 33 injured have been referred to various hospitals -- 13 in Reasi, five in CHC Treyath and 15 to GMC in Jammu.

A joint security force temporary operation headquarters by Police, Army and CRPF has been set up at the site and a multidimensional operation has been launched to get at the attackers.

Deputy Commissioner Reasi Vishesh Paul Mahajan also reached the scene to coordinate rescue and search operations.

Security forces from Reasi and the neighbouring Rajouri district were mobilised for a comprehensive search to locate and eliminate the terrorists responsible for the heinous act.

The incident underscores the persistent threat posed by Pakistan-based terrorist elements seeking to instigate unrest and revive militancy in the Jammu region.

Meanwhile, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) strongly condemned the terrorist attack and demanded stern action against terror groups and complete sanitisation of the region to free it from terrorists.

This was the second time terrorists attacked a pilgrim bus in Jammu and Kashmir in the past three decades. Earlier, a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims was fired upon by terrorists in Kashmir's Anantnag district in July 2017, killing seven pilgrims and injuring 19 others.

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