Hindu pilgrims killed in militant attack in Kashmir

An Indian Hindu devotee is carried by Kashmiri porters during the start of the annual journey from Baltal Base Camp to the holy Amarnath Cave shrine in Baltal near Srinagar on July 2, 2015Image copyright

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Thousands of Hindu pilgrims make the journey to the Amarnath Cave each year

Seven Hindu pilgrims, six of them women, have been killed in a militant attack in Indian-administered Kashmir after their bus apparently got caught in crossfire.

The bus is understood to have been returning from the Amarnath Cave pilgrimage site when militants launched an attack in Anantnag district.

It is thought the target was vehicles at a counter-insurgency base.

The attack, which also left 19 pilgrims wounded, could raise tensions.

A police source told the BBC the attack did not appear to be aimed at the bus, but hardline Hindu groups linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party have long wanted to see tough action against the armed revolt against Indian rule in the Muslim-majority region.

News of the attack has already sparked anger on social media, with people demanding immediate retaliation on behalf of the pilgrims, most of whom came from Gujarat, Mr Modi’s home state.

Mr Modi tweeted he was “pained beyond words”, adding: “India will never get bogged down by such cowardly attacks and the evil designs of hate.”

The attack has also been condemned by separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, whose spokesman called it “an act of terror”, while outlawed armed group Lashkar-e-Toiba distanced itself from the attack, saying “it was aimed at bringing a bad name to the Kashmiri movement”.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who stayed overnight with the wounded, all of whom were out of danger, promised his forces “would not spare” those involved.

The attack comes after some hardline separatist leaders said they welcomed the pilgrims – about 100,000 of whom have already completed the journey – as their fight is not with ordinary Indians.

One police source told the BBC the bus was not properly registered, and should have been off the road by the time of the attack, at 20:20 local time (14:50 GMT) on Monday.

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