Indian police station under siege from armed attack

Authorities said two police officers and three civilians had been confirmed dead in the siege in the northern state of Punjab, and at least seven more injured.

An Indian security force personnel shoots his rifle during a siege on a Punjab police station. Narinder Nanu / AFP Photo
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GURDASPUR, INDIA // Indian security forces were battling an armed attack on a police station near the Pakistan border Monday in which at least five people have been killed.

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.

An AFP reporter at the scene said fierce firing could be heard around the police station in the town of Gurdaspur, bringing panicked residents out onto the streets.

Abhinav Trikha, the deputy police commissioner, said the attackers appeared to be holed up in the residential quarters of the police station and were “firing continuously”.

“There were three to four attackers. They were dressed in army uniforms and came in a Maruti car,” he said.

The attackers reportedly opened fire on a bus and hijacked a vehicle before storming the police station.

Rajvinder Singh, a police spokesman, said he had witnessed a security officer being hit by a bullet during the standoff.

“I don’t know his condition, but he was immediately rushed to the hospital. The operation is on and this is still a live-operation,” Mt Singh said.

Five live bombs were recovered from a nearby railway line, but Kiren Rijiju, the junior home minister, said reports that the attackers were holding people hostage inside the police station appeared to be false.

“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.

Rajnath Singh, the home minister, said he had ordered increased security on the border with Pakistan, although it remained unclear who was responsible for the attack.

Such incidents are relatively common in the disputed Kashmir region, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in full by both.

But in neighbouring Punjab, a majority-Sikh state, has largely been spared the violence that has plagued Indian Kashmir for decades.

Some media reports suggested the attackers may have crossed into Punjab from Kashmir before launching their assault.

Last November a suicide bomber killed at least 55 people on the Pakistan side of the Wagah border in Punjab, the main Pakistan-India border crossing.

Monday’s attack comes weeks after Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif spoke for about an hour during a summit in Russia, raising hopes of an improvement in perennially difficult relations.

* Agence France-Presse