Gunmen dressed in Indian Army uniforms opened fire on a civilian bus and then took over a police station in the northern state of Punjab early on Monday, killing at least five people, the police said, in a region that has been mostly calm since India quelled a Sikh insurgency there two decades ago.
The police also reported finding five bombs wired to a railroad track in the area, causing train service to be suspended. The gunmen were killed late in the day, after a shootout with the police that continued for almost 12 hours, said Havaldar Prit Pal Singh, an official in Gurdaspur, a district near the international border with Pakistan and the state border with Jammu and Kashmir.[content_block id=762 slug=ads1]
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Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he had ordered that security be increased on the border between India and Pakistan. It remained unclear who the gunmen were. Though similar commando-style attacks are regularly carried out by Islamic militants in Jammu and Kashmir, to the north, it is unusual to see them in Punjab, which is heavily Sikh.[content_block id=765 slug=ads2]
Throughout the 1980s, the state was the site of one of India’s most violent ethnic conflicts, as Indian forces battled the Khalistan Liberation Force, which sought to establish an independent Sikh nation in Punjab. By the mid-1990s, however, that insurgency was all but crushed, with hundreds of rebels arrested, killed or driven underground.
The police said the gunmen on Monday, who were believed to have entered Punjab from Jammu and Kashmir, had stolen a car and then opened fire on a moving intercity bus before raiding the police station in Dinanagar, roughly 25 miles from the Pakistani border.
The attackers stormed the station around 5 a.m. and shot two officers on duty there, said Joginder Singh, a constable at Gurdaspur Police Headquarters. It was unclear where the other three people were killed. “We do not know how many people were inside the station, and how many are still alive,” he said.
Among those killed was a police superintendent who was “on the terrace, targeting the terrorists, when the terrorists shot him down with a burst from their guns,” said an official stationed at the residence of the police chief in Gurdaspur. Army commandos were dispatched to Dinanagar to assist the police.