Five dead as attackers storm Indian police station

Five dead as attackers storm Indian police station
Indian policemen take their positions as their colleagues watch next to a police station during a gunfight at Dinanagar town in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, India, July 27, 2015.

GURDASPUR, India - Indian security forces were Monday battling a attack on a police station near the Pakistan border in which at least five people have been killed.

Authorities said two police officers and three civilians had been confirmed dead in the hours-long siege, which began early Monday in the town of Gurdaspur in the northern state of Punjab.

About seven more people have been injured in the attack and an AFP reporter at the scene said fierce firing could still be heard around the police station, bringing panicked residents out onto the streets.

Deputy police commissioner Abhinav Trikha 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 told reporters at the scene.

Five live bombs were recovered from nearby railway tracks and television footage showed one officer walking away from the scene, his face and uniform covered in blood.

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

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

It is the first major attack in India's Punjab for more than a decade and the state's Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal blamed a lack of security on the border.

"This militancy is a national problem, not a state problem, so it needs to be tackled with a national policy," he told reporters.

"If prior intelligence input had been given, they should have properly sealed the borders."

- 'A live operation' -

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

Neighbouring Punjab, a majority-Sikh state, has largely been spared the violence that has plagued Indian Kashmir.

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

Local police spokesman Rajvinder Singh said he had seen a security officer being hit by a bullet during the stand-off.

"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," Singh said.

Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju said reports 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.

Monday's attack comes weeks after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif spoke for about an hour during a summit in Russia.

The meeting raised hopes of an improvement in perennially difficult relations, but was swiftly followed by a flare-up in violence along the de facto border in Kashmir.

India regularly accuses Pakistan's army of providing covering fire for rebels who infiltrate across the border and then mount attacks in the Indian sector of Kashmir.

Th two countries have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region.

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