Terror looms over Hindu pilgrimage to Kashmir


Amid heavy security by India the first batch of Hindu pilgrims reached disputed Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, to perform the annual Amarnath pilgrimage.

Over 200,000 pilgrims from across India are expected to visit the Amarnath cave, nestled in the mountains of southern Kashmir, during the 40-day-long pilgrimage.

The pilgrimage which is always conducted under massive security is being guarded by additional forces, after intelligence agencies received threat of an attack by militants.

The Kashmir police chief Muneer Khan, in a letter to the Indian Army, paramilitary and his subordinates in the police, said that terrorists may target 100-150 pilgrims and 100 police officials in an attack.

Khan later told media that he had only shared the letter with the Indian armed forces to check its authenticity.

"This pilgrimage will have the highest-ever security setup," SN Shrivastava, special director general of India's paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force, told media in Kashmir.

"All security arrangements have been made in view of the threat perception," he added.

More than 40,000 armed personnel are guarding the pilgrimage, said police officials who spoke to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Security equipment including jammers, CCTV cameras and bullet-proof bunkers are being used to the guard the pilgrimage, police sources added.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

The two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- since they were partitioned in 1947, two over Kashmir.

Kashmiri resistance groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989. India maintains more than half a million troops in the disputed region.

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