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India on alert after parliament shootout

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India has pledged to crush terrorism after a daring suicide attack on parliament that put the country in a state of high alert.

A fierce shootout lasting more than 30 minutes came just after lawmakers adjourned inside the New Delhi building. No group has claimed responsibility for the assault, which left 12 people dead.

A spokesperson in the office of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told CNN the invaders broke through parliament's outer security in a white government vehicle just before noon Thursday.

Once inside, two reportedly detonated explosives strapped to their bodies. One intruder threw a hand grenade at an entrance used by members of parliament. Another lobbed a grenade at the entrance used by the prime minister.

The region is tense because of the Afghanistan situation and continuing terrorist activities in the northern state of Kashmir, which India blames on its nuclear neighbor, Pakistan.

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Within hours, Vajpayee went on national television and vowed to crush terrorism.

"We will repulse each of their attacks," Vajpayee said. "For the past two decades, we have been fighting terrorism, now the battle has reached its final phase."

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf quickly condemned the attack and offered sympathy. The United States and Britain made similar responses.

Kashmir's main separatist alliance also condemned the killings. "We have no connection with the attack on Indian parliament," said a statement issued by the Muthida Jihad Council alliance in Muzaffarabad, capital of the Pakistan-ruled part of Kashmir.

Vajpayee heard about the attack as he was being driven towards the parliament. He immediately returned home.

In the assault, five gunmen were killed. Seven guards also died and about 15 other people were injured.

Just two months ago, a similar attack on the assembly in Kashmir left 38 people dead and the fresh attack was being condemned as a "lapse in security" given that recent precedent.

When explosions and automatic gunfire rang out, dozens of Indian soldiers and commandos took up positions around and inside the parliament complex.

Parliament had just adjourned when the attack was launched, and it was not clear precisely how many MPs were in the building.

The attack began at 11:45 a.m. local time (0615 GMT) with a heavy exchange of fire and loud explosions. Most of the gunfire and explosions occurred just outside gate 12 of the parliament.

Eyewitnesses told CNN that they saw people with bullet injuries and local television showed the wounded being put into ambulances.

The gunmen did not reach the parliament building.

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Intensified security puts the city of New Delhi on edge for hours afterwards  

CNN's Satinder Bindra said dozens of elite Indian commandos and soldiers were deployed along with armed guards and police.

He said no one was being allowed to enter or leave parliament. About 300 people, including approximately 100 MPs, remained inside.

Both the upper and lower houses of Parliament are expected to convene Friday to "condemn terrorism."

The main Mumbai stock index fell 3 percent on news of the attack before recovering.



 
 
 
 



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