July 11 (UPI) -- Seven Hindu pilgrims died when unidentified militants attacked the bus in which they were riding in Kashmir, police said.
The attack Monday came as thousands of people arrived by bus at the Amaranth Cave, a Hindu holy site in the Himalayas. Gunmen opened fire on a bus returning from the shrine after they attacked a police patrol and security checkpoint near the village of Botengoo in Kashmir, Indian-administered territory but long contested between Pakistan and India.
At least seven people, six of them women, were shot and killed. Nineteen others were injured, three critically. The bus was caught in the crossfire between militants and the police, the BBC said.
Muslim separatists, opposing Indian rule in Kashmir, have attacked Hindu processions along the same road in the past. Up to 100,000 Hindu pilgrims make the trip every summer to Amaranth Cave. Thousands of police and Indian soldiers lined the route this year.
The bus that was attacked was traveling at night, not registered with the state government and not part of a convoy, Muneer Khan, Kashmir police inspector general, said. He added that the bus attack may have been Muslim retribution for security forces' recent killing of militants in the area.
Leaders of the Indian government condemned the attack. Emergency meetings were held in the Indian capital, New Delhi, and in Kashmir. Security along the route was reinforced on Tuesday.