A Correspondent in New Delhi
In their most audacious attack to date, terrorists on Thursday morning launched an attack on Parliament House in New Delhi after breaching security at gate number 12. In the ensuing gun-battle, five terrorists, six Delhi policemen and a Parliament employee were killed.
Five terrorists breached the massive security cordon in Parliament House building around 1145 am, firing from AK-47 rifles and hurling grenades. Both Houses were adjourned about 40 minutes before the strike, but several Union ministers and hundreds of MPs were still inside.
Officials declined to say whether Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was inside Parliament when the attack took place, but said he was safe and was personally monitoring the situation. Vajpayee is understood to be in Parliament, conferring with his Cabinet colleagues, Home Minister L K Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes.
Seventy-five minutes after the attack, the Parliament building continued to be sealed as security forces were said to be searching for one of the militants holed up inside the complex.
Defence Minister George Fernandes said the terrorists tried to lob hand-grenades into the Parliament building, but were not successful. Both Fernandes and Law Minister Arun Jaitley confirmed that while terrorists had in fact penetrated the compound, they had failed to enter the main building.
The attacks occurred just as parliamentarians were preparing to leave the House, following an adjournment forced by the opposition uproar over the ongoing coffin scam.
In an initial reaction, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan said no terrorists had actually gained entry into Parliament House, and that the situation was under control.
Minister of State for Defence Harin Pathak, who was inside the premises at the time of the attack, confirmed in a television interview that the firing had lasted for at least 30 minutes.
An estimated 200 MPs, plus visitors and media personnel, were believed to be in the complex when the attack broke out.
Home Minister Advani and other senior ministers were moved to a secure location within the Parliament complex in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
The army was called in. Black Cat commandos and police personnel were rushed to the spot. All entry and exit points were sealed and security forces were engaged in a lock-down and mop-up operation.
Security was enhanced at the residences of the prime minister, home minister and the leader of the opposition.
All the states were asked to beef up security at key installations, Advani told reporters.
Complete Coverage: The Attack on Parliament
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