Dinanagar (Punjab): At least five people were killed and 10 injured when heavily-armed terrorists wearing army fatigues hijacked a car, drove down to this town in Punjab's Gurdaspur district, peppered the bus stand with bullets and then stormed a police station -- shattering two decades of calm in the state.
Authorities said that five people were killed in the terror attack, while unconfirmed reports said the toll may be higher.
"So far reports of five deaths including three civilians and two police personnel confirmed from Gurudaspur. Operation is still on," tweeted Press Information Bureau in Delhi.
Three home guard personnel who were inside the police station were among those feared killed. Other victims were civilians, including a person inside an adjoining hospital.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that he had spoken to director general of Border Security Force (BSF) D.K. Pathak and instructed him to step up the vigil on India-Pakistan border in the wake of attack in Gurdaspur.
Special forces of the army and NSG as well as police commandos took up position around the Dinanagar police station.
This was the first major terror attack in Punjab following the assassination of then chief minister Beant Singh on August 31, 1995.
Monday's attack began at 5.30 a.m. at Dinanagar town in Punjab's frontier district of Gurdaspur, close to the India-Pakistan border and near the border with Jammu and Kashmir state.
A gun battle raged between the terrorists, holed up inside the Dinanagar police station, and security forces, including soldiers. Continuous sound of firing and lobbying of grenades could be heard even hours after the first shots were fired by the militants.
The police station, adjoining government hospital, residential quarters inside the police station and nearby private houses were quickly cordoned off by security forces.
Minister of state for home Kirren Rijiju told IANS in Delhi that "as of now there is no information regarding hostages being held. We are looking into it and once I get some more information, I will come out with it".
The terrorists, numbering four, are believed to have come from Pakistan. They arrived in a Maruti 800 car which they had hijacked after firing at the driver and killing a person in a dhaba nearby. They also fired at people near the Dinanagar bus stand and then attacked the Dinanagar police station, located about 100 metres away.
Eyewitnesses said the terrorists fired on a bus going towards Jammu and later entered the police station.
"We were hit by a burst of gunfire suddenly. I was hit on the shoulder. They are firing indiscriminately every five minutes," a Punjab police official, who was injured in the attack, told media as he was being taken to the hospital.
The town is about 15 km from the India-Pakistan border and 25 km from the border of Jammu and Kashmir state. It is about 235 km from Chandigarh.
Additional Director-General of Punjab Police, Dinkar Gupta, told media the "attack took the Dinanagar police by surprised".
Army and police reinforcements were rushed to the spot.
Punjab Police sources said the incident indicated may be a suicide attack.
The attack took place just a day after Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal faced pro-Khalistan slogans while attending a function at Punjab University in Patiala.
In a related development, five live bombs were found on the Amritsar-Pathankot railway track.
The bombs were found by passersby on a bridge near Parmanand railway station on the Amritsar-Pathankot railway section, who informed security forces. Trains on the route were stopped immediately.
A major railway tragedy was averted as the bombs were carefully wired to the railway track at a small bridge near Parmanand railway station, five km from Dinanagar. A police spokesman told media that the army bomb disposal unit had defused the bombs.
A train, which was to pass on the railway track, was stopped just 200 metres from the spot where the bombs had been planted.