Shootout at Indian space facility

March 16, 2010 12:00 am

, BANGALORE, Mar 16 – Paramilitary police guarding a space centre in southern India on Tuesday exchanged fire with two men who were acting suspiciously near the facility, an official said.

The shootout occurred in the early hours of Tuesday at the Deep Space Network in Byalalu, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Bangalore, when the guards challenged two men, one of whom began firing a handgun.

"In retaliation, our guards fired at the suspects who fled from the spot and vanished in darkness," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) director S. Satish told AFP.

"We have registered a case with the local police who have posted extra men at the facility."

Home Minister P. Chidambaram confirmed that guards from the paramilitary Central Industrial Security Force had fired at the suspects.

"Teams there are investigating the matter. There was no danger to the establishment," he told reporters outside parliament.

India has been on high alert since a bombing in the city of Pune in February that killed 16 people, with at-risk installations under tight surveillance.

The country is seen as under threat from militants in neighbouring Pakistan as well as homegrown groups.

Police are investigating whether the shootout was the work of militants or common criminals. The suspect fired two shots from a revolver and the security guards returned eight rounds.

"It\’s too early to talk of (a) terror angle. We are investigating the shootout case from all angles," Kamal Panth, inspector general of police for the Bangalore region, told AFP.

"We are combing the entire area to nab the suspects."

The attack in Pune was India\’s first since an assault on Mumbai in November 2008 that left 166 dead.

The Deep Space Network was set up in 2007 by the state-run ISRO for receiving data and images from the country\’s first unmanned lunar exploration mission, Chandrayaan-1, which was launched in 2008.


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