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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 17:15 GMT
Parliament suicide attack stuns India
Wounded policeman
At least 22 people were injured in "terrorist" attack
Twelve people have been killed in an unprecedented suicide attack on the Indian parliament in Delhi, officials said.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said it was "a warning to the entire nation" and that India would wage a "do or die" war against terrorism.

The motive remains unclear. No group has admitted carrying out the attack - which Indian Home Minister L K Advani said was similar to an October strike against the Kashmir state assembly by separatist militants.

But he also suggested that it could be linked with the 11 September attacks on the United States.

Mr Advani said India had received warnings of a possible attack following the defeat of the Taleban regime in Afghanistan.

Pakistan - accused by India of supporting and sheltering Kashmiri separatists - quickly condemned the attack, as did militant groups in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Indian government officials said all five gunmen had been killed along with six police officers and a gardener.

No members of parliament or ministers were hurt.

The militants, armed with guns and hand grenades and wearing military-style fatigues, burst into the red sandstone parliament complex shortly before noon local time.

A gunbattle raged for an hour, with police crouching behind cars, trees and the corners of the building in a dramatic standoff broadcast live on television.

'Human bomb'

Indian National Assembly building
The battle raged for an hour outside parliament
According to witnesses, one of the gunmen had explosives strapped to his body, and was blown up after bullets tore him apart.

A bomb found in the complex was later detonated in a controlled explosion.

The prime minister made a televised address to the nation.

"This was not just an attack on the building, it was a warning to the entire nation. We accept the challenge," Mr Vajpayee said.

"We have been fighting terrorism for the past two decades," he said. "The fight is in the last stages. It will be a do and die battle."

Sonia Gandhi, leader of the opposition
Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi was in parliament during the shootout

Member of parliament A P Jeetendra Reddy told the Reuters news agency: "It's really a bad day for India. For something like this to happen in parliament is a disgrace. This is supposed to be a highly secure and sacred area."

Mahesh Rangarajan, a political analyst, told the Associated Press that it was "the most serious breach of top security in Delhi since [Prime Minister] Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984".

The cabinet held an emergency meeting after the attack and the government has ordered a review of security arrangements at parliament.

Security is also to be stepped up at state assemblies throughout India.

History of parliament building
The red sandstone building - by architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker - was inaugurated in 1927.
It was the scene of the transfer of power from Britain to India in 1947.
It is an imposing circular building in a large complex at the end of a wide boulevard.
Inside is a circular central hall crowned by a high dome.
Around this hall, there are three semi-circular halls, one for each house of parliament and one a library.
Security forces are also standing guard around the prime minister's residence and government ministries, the defence minister said.

A few hours after the attack, Mr Vajpayee held talks with the man appointed to be foreign minister in Afghanistan's interim government, Abdullah Abdullah.

Witnesses spoke of disbelief and confusion as the first shots were fired, with about 100 MPs in parliament, which had just adjourned.

"I heard a cracker-like sound near the entrance, then I saw people running helter-skelter," MP Kharbala Sain told Reuters.

"I couldn't understand who the terrorists were and who the police were."

A cameraman was said to be among at least 22 people injured.

The United States, Britain and many other countries condemned what is believed to have been the first attack on the highest legislative body in the world's largest democracy.

The BBC's Adam Mynott
"The gunmen had been allowed through the security cordon"
The BBC's Rick Fountain
"Security staff continue to examine the crime scene"
Rajeev Prataab Rudy, State Minister for Commerce
"These were suicidal terrorist attacks"
Cameraman Anamitra Chakravarti
"We saw five gunmen coming"
See also:

01 Oct 01 | South Asia
Militants attack Kashmir assembly
10 Aug 00 | South Asia
Who are the Kashmir militants?
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