Srinagar: A search is on to nab Lashkar-e-Taiba operative called Mohammad Abu Ismail, who is suspected to have masterminded the terror attack in J&K’s Anantnag in which seven Amarnath pilgrims.
Lashkar has, however, denied involvement, its spokesman Abdullah Ghaznavi calling the attack a highly reprehensible act and saying Islam does not allow violence against any faith.
Reports say 26-year-old Ismail, Lashkar's deputy chief in the Valley who is active in the Shopian and Kulgam districts, may have been part of the group of four or five militants that carried out the attack. They came in two motorbikes, fired some 150 bullets at the bus and fled. Lashkar considers Ismaila as an asset.
According to some reports, Lashkar Valley chief Abu Dujana has developed differences with other influential members of the group, and so the 20-something Ismail may effectively be in charge of the outfit in Kashmir.
"Abu Ismail has been operating in the Valley for the past two-and-a-half years and was involved in several attacks that took place on the national highway," a source said.
While Dujana, who has escaped security cordons on several occasions, remains the most wanted militant in the Valley, Ismail does not figure in the list of the 12 most wanted the army released last month. The police, however, consider Ismail an "A++" militant.
Police sources said five people had been detained for questioning during raids on several houses at Botengo, the village in south Kashmir's Anantnag district where the attack took place. No formal arrests have been made so far.
A hunt is on for the militants, who also injured 19 people. The site of the attack was a spot 50km from Srinagar, on the Srinagar Jammu national highway.
According to the purported police report circulated on June 25 - four days before the Yatra started - Anantnag police chief Altaf Khan had informed his bosses about intelligence inputs warning of a threat to Amarnath pilgrims.
Apparently, militants had been directed by their handlers in Pakistan to eliminate 100 to 150 yatris and about 100 police personnel to stoke communal tensions.
"The attack may be in the form of... fire on a Yatra convoy that they (the militants) believe will result in communal tensions throughout the nation," the purported report says. "Although the nature of the input needs further corroboration, at this stage the possibility of some sensational terrorist attack cannot be ruled out."
Police personnel had been put on alert to defeat the "nefarious designs of anti-national elements".