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Suicide squad storms Parliament; 5 militants killed; Army deployed
By Harish Khare

THE FACE OF TERROR: Three of the five armed terrorists who stormed the Parliament House complex on Thursday are seen in action across the wall. - Photo courtesy NDTV / Star TV

NEW DELHI, DEC. 13. The terrorists brought their decade-old battle against the nation right to the heart of official India and managed to stage a shocking attack in the most guarded five-acre patch in the country - the Parliament House complex.

A terrorist suicide squad sneaked into the Parliament House, but before all five of them could be gunned down by the security officials, they did succeed in killing six security personnel and one civilian; as many as 12 security personnel and six civilians were hurt. The violent drama lasted just about 30 minutes but its reverberations will be felt for a long time to come.

Police and other Intelligence agencies were not able or willing to identify the terrorists, though the official word is that the ``agencies have some clues and are working on it.'' However, the Union Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, told newspersons that as far he could make out, the slain terrorists did not look like ``Indian faces.'' The unstated inference was that the terrorists were perhaps of Afghan origin.

Perhaps, it was a fortuitous delay in the Vice-President, Mr. Krishan Kant 's departure from Parliament that tripped up the terrorists' plan to gain entry into the main building. They unexpectedly found themselves against the Vice-President's motorcade and, in a panic, sought to retrace their way; but, in the process, they brushed against a security vehicle and invited the attention and challenge to themselves.

The next 25 minutes saw a pitched gunbattle between the four terrorists and the security personnel. The fifth terrorist sought to make his way towards the main entry but when he got hit in the leg, blew himself up.

Immediately after the failed attack, the Parliament House complex was virtually converted into an armed camp. The entire complex had to be ``sanitised,'' while simultaneously the trapped Ministers, parliamentarians, mediapersons and others had to be whisked away to safety. As an added precaution, security units were deployed in and around the VVIP zone; with the Army guarding the residences of the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

The terrorists sought to attack the Parliament House at a time when it has the maximum attendance. Though the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, was not there, the Vice-President, other senior Ministers and a very large number of parliamentarians were present in the building.

As Mr. Advani spelt it out, the objective of the attack was not just to damage the building but to eliminate the political leadership.

The attack was a ``major conspiracy,'' intended to disrupt the entire political system and destabilise the ``whole set-up.''

For the first hour, the Government found itself shaken to the core. In a bout of panic, the Home Minister and the Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes, decided to summon Army units and soon there were so many uniformed units that there was confusion as to who was in-charge. Fortunately, the confusion was soon sorted out, and a confident Prime Minister ``addressed'' the nation.

PTI reports:

Mr. Advani said the terrorists who had attacked Parliament would pay dearly for their ``misadventure.''

Speaking from within the Parliament House shortly after the attack, he said it would be condemned by the entire country.

Mr. Vajpayee today spoke to the President, Mr. K.R. Narayanan, and apprised him of the shoot-out by suspected terrorists in Parliament House.

Mr. Vajpayee rang up Mr. Narayanan and told him about the measures being taken to face the situation, PMO sources said.

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