NEW DELHI (Web Desk) – India tightened security on its western border with Pakistan on Monday after its military said heavily armed men stormed a police station in the northern frontier state of Punjab killing at least five people and wounding several others.
Authorities said two police officers and three civilians had been confirmed dead in the ongoing siege in the northern state of Punjab, and at least seven more injured.
A local police chief (SP) was among those killed.
Armed police exchanged fire with the attackers, who remained holed up in the police station in Gurdaspur district 10 hours after the assault began at about 5am, officials said.
The group of about five attackers came in a white Maruti-Suzuki car, dressed in army uniforms, said Harcharan Bains, an adviser to Indian Punjab’s chief minister. The attackers took the vehicle at gunpoint from a roadside “dhaba” restaurant, another local politician told Reuters.
There was a lull in shooting by early afternoon, a Reuters witness said, after security forces in red and black turbans surrounded the building in the town of Dinanagar, about 15 km from the international border.
Television footage showed a white Maruti-Suzuki sedan with its windshield peppered with bullet holes, and broken glass and bullet casings on the passenger seat.
Soldiers were also deployed, at least one of them armed with a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher.
“We have been able to limit (the attack). They are surrounded and holed up in the police station. We are on top of the situation,” said Harcharan Bains, an adviser to Indian Punjab’s chief minister.
Local police spokesman Rajvinder Singh said “We don’t think there are any hostages. And for now, while the operation is on, it won’t be right to divulge details,” he said.
Five bombs were also found on a railway track in the state, suggesting a attempted coordinated attack, around the time India is marking the anniversary of a near-war with Pakistan in northern Kashmir in 1999.
Even before the situation settles down, Indian police said the attackers had entered India from Pakistan a couple of days ago in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir, to the north.
Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office, alleged Pakistan involvement. “There have been earlier reports of Pakistan infiltration and cross-border mischief in this area,” said Singh, whose constituency in the Jammu region borders Gurdaspur.
Pakistan, which has fought three wars with India since both nations gained independence in 1947, has denied any involvement in insurgencies in Indian Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
Federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he had spoken to the head of India’s Border Security Force and “instructed him to step up the vigil” on the border.
“The situation is under control,” Singh told reporters.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an emergency high-level meeting to discuss the attack, according to The Hindu.