The security forces on Wednesday evening launched a massive search operation in the forests of Kulgam district in Jammu and Kashmir after a tip off about the presence of militants in the area.

The four militants hiding in the Kulgam forests are believed to be responsible for the deadly attack on Amarnath Yatra pilgrims in which seven people, including six women, were killed and 19 others were injured.

According to Home Ministry, proactive operations have been launched in the Kulgam district and extra forces have been deployed in the area.

Security forces are also trying to track down the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander Abu Ismail, who has emerged as the mastermind of the attack, ABP reported.

The attack on pilgrims was carried out despite deployment of a multi-layered security cover provided by nearly 35,000 security men drawn from the Army, Central Reserve Police Force, Indo Tibetan Border Police, Sashastra Seema Bal and the state police.

Authorities said the bus attacked by the terrorists was moving after the security deployment was withdrawn at 7.30 p.m. and the attack had taken place at 8.20 p.m.

It was also said that the bus and its pilgrims were not registered with the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) that manages the affairs of the annual Yatra.

So far, 1.57 lakh pilgrims have performed the Yatra and paid obeisance inside the Amarnath cave situated 3,888 metres above the sea-level.

(With IANS inputs)