'Lashkar picked local militant for attack on Vaishno Devi pilgrims'
17 August 2003
Katra (Udhampur): The prime accused in the July 21 grenade attack on Vaishno Devi pilgrims, Mohammad Yosuf alias Mitha, has confessed that he lobbed the grenades that killed six persons and injured 38. The 24-year-old militant, a resident of Pangam village in Basantgarh, was arrested after an encounter with a group of militants on August 10 in the Doda-Basantgarh belt in Udhampur district. Yosuf said that the top cadre of the Lashkar met at Mahore (northern Udhampur) in the last week of June and decided to carry out attacks on civilian targets. A Lashkar commander, identified as Sahil, a resident of Pakistan- occupied Kashmir, planned to target the famous Vaishno Devi shrine visited by 50 lakh pilgrims every year. A Lashkar volunteer from Doda district, Abdullah, was asked to search for a non-Lashkar militant, who was also a local, to carry out the attack. Abdullah approached Yosuf, a former Hizb-ul Mujahideen militant, who was lying low after being released from detention. In order to avoid detection, Yosuf took up a job at Domail, near Katra, the base camp for the Vashino Devi shrine. In the afternoon of July 21, Abdullah and Sahil met Yosuf in the Domail forest area and gave him four hand grenades to be hurled at a crowded place to cause the maximum damage. The Gulshan langar on the 13 km-trek to Katra was specifically targeted due to the rush. The militant reached Katra town through Dhar hills on July 21 evening. Late that night, he carried out the grenade attack and later mixed with the pilgrims to make good his escape.