Four army personnel have been killed in a firing incident at a military station in the Indian border state of Punjab early on Wednesday, officials said, adding that a search for the shooters is in progress.
An unknown number of shooters are at large at the Bathinda military station and had ammunition on them, a defence source told Reuters, declining to be named citing the sensitivity of the matter.
The incident was “not a terror attack”, and took place in a canteen, a senior police official in Punjab, S.P.S. Parmar told Reuters.
“Station quick-reaction teams were activated. Area was cordoned off and sealed,” the army said in a statement. “Search operations are in progress. Further details being ascertained.”
The incident took place at 4:35am (2305 GMT Tuesday), the statement said.
The military station, about 280 km (175 miles) northwest of New Delhi, houses mostly families of soldiers and is a residential army base.
Bathinda’s top police official Gulneet Singh Khurana told local news broadcaster NDTV that a police team was waiting outside the military station and that the army had not cleared their entry yet.
He added that all four gates of the military station had been shut.
Meanwhile, ANI quoted police sources as saying that an Insas rifle with 28 cartridges had gone missing about two days ago and suspected that army personnel may be behind the incident.
Punjab has been on the edge since last month when authorities launched a manhunt for firebrand Sikh separatist leader Amritpal Singh.
Singh has in recent months rallied a huge following by demanding the creation of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland, the struggle for which sparked deadly violence in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s.
He remains at large after eluding despite a huge police dragnet involving thousands of police officers and a statewide internet shutdown that lasted for several days.
Recent attacks on Indian military
Following are the major attacks on Indian military bases in the last few years:
Aug 2022: Militants attacked an Indian army post in Rajouri in the disputed Kashmir region, killing three soldiers, while two attackers died in the shootout.
Feb 2019: A suicide bomber rammed a car into a bus carrying Indian paramilitary police in Pulwama, killing 44 of them in the deadliest attack in decades on security forces in the disputed region.
Nov 2016: Militants attacked an army base at Nagrota near Jammu city, killing seven security personnel and taking hostages in the military base.
Sept 2016: Four gunmen burst into a brigade headquarters in the town of Uri in the disputed Himalayan region, killing 18 Indian soldiers.
Jan 2016: Indian security forces killed six militants who launched an assault on a military air base in Pathankot in Punjab that killed seven security personnel and injured 22.