He kept driving despite the firing, and stopped only near a military camp
It was raining bullets, but the remarkable courage and presence of mind shown by driver Salim Sheikh from Gujarat, helped save many lives in the terror attack on a bus of Amarnath pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir that left seven dead on Monday, according to survivors' accounts yesterday.
Bus driver Salim Sheikh ducked to save himself and then drove on undeterred
Sheikh, the driver of the bus belonging to Om Travels from Valsad town which was carrying 51 pilgrims, kept driving the vehicle in pitch darkness on Monday night unfazed by the hail of bullets fired at the bus.
He applied brakes only after reaching a military camp, some two km away from the site where they were ambushed, saving many pilgrims who were in the bus, said a survivor.
"God gave me strength to save their lives. At around 8 pm yesterday, the terrorists started firing. They kept on firing non-stop from the front," Sheikh, who is being hailed as a hero, said.
As Sheikh ducked to save himself, three bullets hit the bus owner, Harsh Desai, who was sitting by his side.
"As we were on the way, we heard the sound of bullets like someone was bursting crackers. As we realised it was a terrorist attack, I asked Sheikh to keep driving until we reached a military camp. He kept on driving for two kilometres and stopped only after reaching the military camp," Desai said.
Bus attacked twice
The bus carrying the Amarnath pilgrims was attacked twice in quick succession by two teams of terrorists, who escaped after spraying bullets from automatic rifles. In a two-page report sent to the Union home ministry, the Jammu and Kashmir government said the bus came under attack from a group of terrorists at Khanabal. Sheikh charged past the area but faced another group of terrorists after crossing just 75 metres. The state government report said he again did not stop the bus.
Gujarat brimmed over with anger and anguish as the bodies of the seven Amarnath pilgrims arrived in Surat amid angry protests across the state and calls to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reprisal.
Rajnath rebuts online troll
In an unusual rebuttal to an online troll, Home Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday asserted that all Kashmiris were not terrorists. The assertion came in response to a tweet from an "Editor of Make My Trip," Suchi Singh Kalra. Singh responded, "Ms Kalra I certainly do. It is absolutely my job to ensure peace and tranquility in all parts of the country. All Kashmiris are not terrorists."
Rs 2 lakh
The J&K Government’s award to driver Salim Sheikh
Rs 2 lakh
The Amarnath Shrine Board’s award to him
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