India stepped up security along its border with Pakistan and sounded a high alert across the country after a terror attack killed at least seven people including policemen and civilians in the northern Punjab state.
Police say a group of three to four heavily-armed militants dressed in army fatigues came in a car, sprayed a bus with bullets injuring several civilians, then stormed a police station in Dinanagar town in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. The town lies close to India’s border with Pakistan.
A Punjab chief minister advisor, Harcharan Bains, says the assault began early Monday.
“About five a.m., they suddenly started firing and after that they have been holed up in the police station," he said." Punjab police have surrounded those people; the entire area has been cordoned off.”
The attack continued for many hours as commandos and police deployments were rushed to flush out the militants. The fierce firing brought panicked residents out of their homes. The casualties included policemen and civilians.
The sound of gunshots reverberated on television screens.
Police say five bombs were also found on rail tracks between Dinanagar and Pathankot, a town with a heavy army presence, suggesting that more attacks had been planned.
Pakistani militants suspected
Punjab, which witnessed a bloody Sikh insurgency more than three decades ago, has not seen militant attacks like this one for many years, although such attacks have been witnessed in the neighboring Jammu and Kashmir state.
Counterterrorism officials said the gunmen belonged to Pakistan-based militant groups. New Delhi alleges these groups sneak infiltrators into Kashmir to mount terror attacks – a charge Islamabad denies.
Junior Minister Jitendra Singh said he did not rule out Pakistan’s involvement, saying the area which suffered the latest attack was also vulnerable.
“There have been also earlier reports of Pakistan infiltration and cross-border mischief in this area," Singh said.
India Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he did not understand why time and again cross-border incidents are taking place when India wanted good relations with its neighbor.