All of the still-unidentified assailants, armed with AK-47 machine guns, died during a 90-minute gunbattle. Seven policemen also were killed in the exchange in front of the parliament building in New Delhi.
Twelve policemen and five civilians are being treated for injuries, according to officials at the nearby Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. Six are said to be in critical condition. None of the parliament members inside were reportedly injured.
One of the attackers died after he exploded bombs strapped to his body in front of the main entrance of the parliament.
The attackers drove through one of the compound’s gates in a white, Indian-made car with official Parliament and Home Ministry stickers and a flashing red siren on the roof, the Indian state-run Doordarshan television station reported.
“It seems their objective was somehow to get inside Parliament House, fully armed with their AK-47s and grenades, while parliament was in session and all the members of the Indian government, all the members of parliament, including the political leaders of the country, were inside,” Home Minister L.K. Advani told Reuters.
Police evacuated the building after the standoff. Officials said it will reopen on Friday.
No group has thus far claimed responsibility for the surprise assault, but officials vowed India would mount a strong response.
“We will liquidate the terrorists and their sponsors whoever they are, wherever they are,” Advani told a news conference.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee spoke on live television shortly after the attack to say that India’s twenty- year-old war against terrorism had “now reached a decisive stage.
“This was an attack not just on Parliament House, but a warning to the entire country,” Vajpayee said. “We accept the challenge. We will foil every attempt of the terrorists.”
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf condemned the attack, saying in a letter to Vajpayee he was “saddened by the loss of life.”
Indian officials said the attack was the worst security breech since the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi by Sikh separatists.