Bangalore, Dec. 28: A masked gunman opened fire from an AK-47 on a group of scientists here tonight, killing a professor from Delhi IIT and injuring four others.
The operation had the stamp of a terrorist strike, though police here and the home ministry in Delhi were not prepared to confirm it as one yet.
The assailant fled in a waiting white Ambassador after the attack outside the JN Tata auditorium attached to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).
M.C. Puri, who is professor emeritus of mathematics at Delhi IIT, died in the firing.
A security supervisor at the institute, who was present, said he saw one person collapsing on the ground. A.N. Sukumaran said: “When I went to the injured person to pull him up, he said ‘I have been shot, please call an ambulance’.”
Sukumaran added that the gunman opened fire as soon as delegates to a conference on operations research came out of the auditorium that is across the road from IISc and were walking towards a neighbouring building where dinner had been laid for them.
Prof Vijay Chandru, the designer of the handheld computer, works at IISc, was hit by two bullets, reports suggested, and had been operated upon.
The three others injured are Dr Pankaj Gupta, Dr Sonia (surname not available) and Patil (confusion over first name). Gupta and the woman delegate, who some reports named as Sangita, are from Delhi.
Reports suggested Patil was hit in the abdomen and a bullet grazed the eye of Sonia.
IISc officials said Chandru was recovering after the emergency surgery on the shoulder and right arm. They said it appeared as if the shooting was random without any specific target.
“It’s taken us all by shock,” Ajay Sood, chairman of the division of physical sciences at IISc, said.
As national leaders like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and technocrat-President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam conveyed their condolences, Puri’s son Saurabh told PTI: “We just got to know about the incident. We are shocked.”
Puri, who was 64, had retired a few years ago, but continued to be associated with the IIT in honorary capacity.
If it is confirmed as a terrorist strike, this will be the first time militants have targeted scientists, or a scientific establishment.
On Monday, Delhi and Bengal police had arrested three suspected militants, with Bangladesh links, who were said to be planning strikes on information technology hubs in Bangalore and Hyderabad.
In a coincidence, the operation occurred on a day when Bangalore was privileged to host Abu Salem, who arrived from Mumbai for a lie detector test.
In Delhi, the home ministry, which came to know of the attack from television, called an emergency meeting. The home secretary said later: “The youth, who fired at the IISc, could not be identified as it was completely dark.”
The gunman also fired at a car parked nearby, breaking its windscreen. Karnataka police later said they had recovered 11 cartridges, three AK-47 magazines and one unexploded grenade and found another in an abandoned pouch.
The injured were moved to MS Ramaiah Hospital, but Puri, a resident of Mount Kailash in Delhi, did not survive.
Witnesses said a group of scientists were walking along the driveway towards the path that would take them to the building where dinner was being served when the gunman appeared from one side and fired.
They said the gunman wore a black mask and a dark dress that looked like a uniform. Some 80-100 of the 300 delegates who had registered for the conference were in the area when the attack took place.
Based on the account of a security guard ' possibly Sukumaran ' on the campus who had witnessed the attack, a lookout notice had been issued, according to police.