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India Suicide Attack Kills 12


A suicide attack on India's heavily guarded Parliament complex has killed 12 people, including six security personnel. There is no word on the identity of the attackers, but Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has pledged to fight a "do or die" battle against terrorism.

The attack was led by at least five men armed with grenades and automatic rifles who entered the Indian Parliament complex in a stolen car shortly before midday.

Four of the gunmen were killed in an hour long shootout with security forces, and a suicide bomber blew himself up.

Explosives brought in by the attackers were defused hours after the attack.

The gunmen did not manage to enter the building, but were near gates through which lawmakers enter.

In a message to the nation hours after the attack, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called it an attack not on the parliament, but on the entire nation.

Mr. Vajpayee said India has been fighting terrorism for the past two decades. He said the fight is in its final stages, and there should be no doubt that India will fight a decisive battle to the end.

The Prime Minister was not in Parliament at the time of the attack. All of the approximately 300 lawmakers, including senior ministers, in the building are safe.

Army and paramilitary commandos have surrounded the complex. Parliament is to convene on Friday.

Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani called it a terrorist attack. He said no one has claimed responsibility, but he said since the September 11 attacks on the United States, no group has been claiming responsibility for terrorist acts.

According to Mr. Advani, the main objective was to strike at the heart of the world's largest democracy and create political instability. "The objective was, in a way, to disrupt the whole political system of the country, to see that there is political instability in the country, to see that the whole set up is destabilized. This is a major conspiracy," he said.

The attack is being considered one of the most serious in India since Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated at her New Delhi residence by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.

India has been wracked by separatist militant violence for many years, but it is the first time that an attack has been launched on the heavily guarded parliament complex.

The government has ordered that security be stepped up at state assemblies throughout India.

Several countries, including the United States, Britain and New Delhi's archrival Pakistan, have condemned the attack.

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