Eighteen years ago, on 24th September 2002, two terrorists attacked the Akshardham Mandir, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. 30 people were killed in the attack, and 80 were injured. Laskar-e-Taiba was believed to be behind the attack. Here is the sequence of events that happened during the attack.
The entry of two terrorists on 24th September
As per the reports, at 4:45 PM, two terrorists were dropped off at Gate 3 of the Akshardham Temple Complex. They tried to enter the complex, but BAPS volunteers working in the temple premises stopped them for security screening. Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is the organization that manages the temple.
The terrorists skipped the screening to jump over a high fence. They started firing while making their way through the amusement park in the complex. They rushed towards the main walkway of the complex while firing and throwing grenades at innocent pilgrims. Witnessing the attack, BAPS volunteers, including the temple supervisor Khodsinh Jadhav, communicated with the volunteers present in the main temple and asked to shut the doors immediately.
CM’s office informed about the attack
At around 4:48 PM, the Chief Minister’s office was informed about the attack. Within 15 minutes, state police and commando units reached the premises. They escorted hundreds of pilgrims present in the premises to the safety, and many local individuals came forward to help provide support to transport injured to the hospitals.
When terrorists realized they could not open the main temple doors, they got into the Exhibition Hall 1 where a multimedia show was being played. They fired shots at the audience resulting in death and injuries to men, women, and children present in the hall. After leaving the Exhibition Hall, they hid in the parikrama.
While the security forces searched for the terrorists who were hiding in an alternative spot, they kept on evacuating visitors from the premises. The pilgrims present in the main Temple were escorted out at around 7:30 PM. Realizing there is no escape, the terrorists jumped out of the parikrama area and fired on the commandos.
At around 5:15 PM, then-CM Narendra Modi called Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and asked for National Security Guards to manage the situation. At around 10:10 PM, NSG commandos reached Akshardham. At around 11:30 PM, they started the operation. The terrorists entered a bathroom to hide around midnight. By that time, several security agencies, including Rapid Action Force, Border Security Force, State Reserve police and Anti-Terrorist Squad, had reached the premises.
Terrorists neutralized next day
As the sun started to rise, the terrorists became impatient and fired continuously on the security forces. At around 6:45 AM, the commandos managed to neutralize the terrorists who by then had moved into bushes close to Exhibition Hall 3.
Several lives lost
30 pilgrims, one state police officer, and one commando lost their lives during the attack. Another commando was seriously injured and died later in the hospital after fighting for his life for two years.
Reopening of Akshardham Temple
On 7th October 2002, the temple premises were reopened for the public. Several steps were taken by the temple administration and the state government to ensure improved safety measures.