At least 12 people died in a suicide attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi on Thursday morning. Some 25 people are said to be seriously injured.
Police commandos take cover at New Delhi's parliament building on Thursday.
Witnesses said five people stormed the parliamentary complex at 11:25 a.m. local time. They carried grenades and machine guns. One of them had explosives strapped to his waist. When he detonated them, six people including the suicide bomber were killed. The other attackers died in an ensuing battle with police. Some of the victims were security officials.
An injured is being rushed to a hospital in New Delhi after Thursday's attack.
At the time of the attack, some 300 members of parliament were in the building. India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and opposition leader Sonia Gandhi, however, had already left the assembly when the attack began.
"Attack on India"
After the unprecedented attack, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee vowed to crush terrorism. "This was not just an attack on the building, it was a warning to the entire nation. We accept the challenge," he said in a televised address to the nation. India is the world's largest democracy.
India's Interior Minister Lal Krishna Advani, who witnessed the attack, said the terrorists appeared to be 'fedayeen' of the kind that carried out the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
No group has claimed responsibility
India's Interior Minister said the attack was similar to a suicide attack carried out on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly building in October, in which more than 40 people died. That attack was linked to violence in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
India accuses Pakistan of supporting militants fighting Indian control in Kashmir. Islamabad says it provides only
diplomatic and moral support, but militant organizations openly operate in Pakistan.
A spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, Aziz Ahmed Khan, on Thursday declined to comment on speculations about a Kashmir connection.
Pakistan condemns attack
The President of Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf, has meanwhile condemned Thursday's attack on India's parliament. He sent a message of sympathy to the Indian prime minister.
"My government strongly condemns the attack," Musharraf said. "I have been saddened by the loss of life and the injuries suffered by Indian security personnel in the attack."
Delhi parliament a symbol of Indian independence
The New Delhi parliament building was the showpiece of the imperial capital when it was first opened by the country's colonial rulers more than 70 years ago. The imposing building has a special place in Indian history.
On August 14, 1947, it witnessed a solemn ceremony marking the transfer of power from Britain to India. During this ceremony, the independent nation's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, made his historic "Tryst with Destiny" speech.
This is the first time such a terrorist attack has been launched on the heavily guarded parliamentary complex.