Quetta: Heavily-armed militants wearing suicide vests stormed a police academy in Quetta, killing at least 59 people and wounding dozens more, rescue officials said Tuesday, in one of the deadliest extremist attacks this year. 3 terrorists neutralised. 116 police personnel injured. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi behind attack.
Three gunmen burst into the sprawling academy, targeting sleeping quarters that are home to some 700 recruits, sending terrified young men fleeing.
Most of the deaths were caused when two of the attackers blew themselves up. The third was shot dead by Frontier Corps (FC) troops. At least 120 people were injured, DawnNews reported.
“I saw three men in camouflage whose faces were hidden carrying Kalashnikovs,” one cadet told reporters. “They started firing and entered the dormitory but I managed to escape over a wall.”
The attack on the Balochistan Police College, around 20 kilometres east of Quetta, began at around 11:10pm Monday, with gunfire continuing to ring out at the site for several hours.
Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti told reporters there had been three attackers.
“They first targeted the watch tower sentry, and after exchanging fire, killed him and were able to enter the academy grounds,” he said.
He later tweeted that the death toll stood at 44 while 118 had been wounded, making the attack the third deadliest in Pakistan this year. Rescue officials said the death toll had risen to 59 Tuesday morning.
Major General Sher Afgan, chief of the paramilitary FC in Balochistan, which led the counter-operation, said “the attack was over in around three hours after we arrived”.
The IG FC said the terrorists were communicating with their handlers in Afghanistan.
“There were three terrorists and all of them were wearing suicide vests,” he added.
“Two suicide attackers blew themselves up, which resulted in casualties, while the third one was shot dead by our troops.”
The operation needed to be conducted with precision therefore it took us four hours to clear the area completely, he added. “No recruit sustained critical wounds; however, some military personnel who conducted the operation received critical wounds.”
He added that communications intercepts showed the militants belonged to the Al-Alimi faction of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group — which is affiliated with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
“They were in communication with operatives in Afghanistan,” he said. The group itself has not claimed the attack. Bugti said the compound was home to some 700 recruits, hundreds of whom were rescued.
The area was plunged into darkness when the counter-offensive was launched, while security personnel threw up a cordon and ambulances zoomed in and out, taking the injured to hospitals. Military helicopters circled overhead.
As the battle continued, police and civil administration officials at the site told AFP they had heard several loud blasts.
The attackers were engaged in an intermittent exchange of fire with security forces for several hours, with reports of a hostage situation. At least three terrorists were reportedly killed, with security forces saying the operation has concluded.
The cadets were rescued from the college following an operation carried out by Special Services Group (SSG) commandos.
At least three explosions were reported at the scene by local media, with one journalist saying the explosions rocked the area. Gunfire and explosions were heard from inside the centre, as the terrorists were said to be carrying AK-47s and grenades.
At least 65 people were injured and were treated at Civil Hospital, of which five sustained bullet wounds. Three were said to be in critical condition.
The training college is situated on Sariab Road, which is considered to be one of the most sensitive areas of Quetta. Militants have been targeting security forces in the area for almost a decade.
The training college has come under attack in the past in 2008 and 2006, with attackers firing rockets into the college playground. It covers about an acre of land located about 13 kilometres outside the main city of Quetta.
The attackers reportedly entered the complex through the front gate after shooting the guard manning the check post, and the attack started at 11:10pm.