As tourists leave, five militants killed in Kashmir 

National Institute of Technology students leave the Valley after the institute decided to suspend classes amid panic over troop build-up in Srinagar on Saturday. PTI

Tourists and pilgrims thronged airports and railway stations in Jammu and Kashmir after troop build-up and government advisories led to an exodus on Saturday even as the Army claimed that it had killed at least five militants in Kupwara district.

“In the last 36 hours no attempt to disrupt the peace and to target the Amarnath Yatra was made in Kashmir,” defence spokesman Rajesh Kalia told reporters, adding that a “Border Action Team (BAT) attempt” had been made on one of the forward posts in the Keran sector but was foiled by troops.

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He said army would continue to respond to all nefarious activities along the LoC and the hinterland.

While the LoC was tense, fear coursed across Kashmir despite the Centre and the governor’s claims that nothing serious was afoot. 

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In the morning, the National Institute of Technology, Srinagar, fell victim to the panic. The institute suspended classes till further orders as hundreds of non-local students packed their bags to return to their respective states.

Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar Shahid Iqbal said the decision to suspend classes was the institute’s own decision. He said transportation had been arranged upon requests from the NIT management as most of the students are from outside the state.

Saturday was not without panic-inducing orders. First, Governor Satya Pal Malik-led administration suspended the annual Machail Mata pilgrimage in hilly Kishtwar’s Paddar area adjoining Kashmir Valley, even though the governor said everything was "normal".

Later, staff at the Bone and Joints Hospital in Srinagar was asked not to leave the station before seeking proper permission from concerned authorities.

There were also rumours that policemen had been asked to deposit their weapons. But the report was rejected by ADGP (law and order) Muneer Khan, who termed it as “baseless and malicious”.

An estimated 11,000 tourists, including yatris and over 200 foreign visitors, were in the Valley when the government issued advisory on Friday asking Amarnath yatris and tourists cut short their stay and return as soon as possible.

Following the advisory, there was a huge rush at Srinagar Airport, with tourists and yatris desperate to catch early flights back home. Airlines have waived cancellation charges and are reportedly arranging additional flights to cater to the huge rush.

Aviation regulator DGCA advised airlines to remain ready to operate additional flights from Srinagar if the need arose.

Reports said nearly 6,000 people boarded 32 flights which operated from Srinagar airport on Saturday.

Amid the confusion and chaos, Governor Satya Pal Malik said that he had no information about anything happening in Kashmir. “Everything is normal here,” he said. “Suicide attackers are waiting to cross the LoC and that’s why we asked tourists and pilgrims to leave.”

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