At least 59 killed in attack on Pakistan police academy

At least 59 killed in attack on Pakistan police academy

QUETTA, Pakistan
At least 59 killed in attack on Pakistan police academy

AFP photo

At least 59 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a Pakistani police training academy in the southwestern city of Quetta and took hostages on Oct. 24.
Militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed the attack on Oct. 25 and said its fighters attacked a police training college in Quetta.

Hundreds of trainees were stationed at the facility when masked gunmen stormed the college on the outskirts of Quetta late on Oct. 24. Some cadets were taken hostage during the raid, which lasted nearly five hours. Most of the dead were cadets. 

“Militants came directly into our barrack. They just barged in and started firing point blank. We started screaming and running around in the barrack,” one police cadet who survived told media. 

Other cadets at the college spoke of jumping out of windows and cowering under beds as masked gunmen hunted them down. 

Video footage from inside one of the barracks, which was seen by Reuters, showed blackened walls and rows of charred beds. 

ISIL’s Amaq news agency published the claim of responsibility, saying three ISIL fighters “used machine guns and grenades, then blew up their explosive vests in the crowd.” 

But Pakistani officials earlier said another Sunni extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was probably behind the raid. 

Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister of the province of Baluchistan, whose capital is Quetta, said the gunmen attacked a dormitory in the training facility, while cadets rested and slept. 

“Two attackers blew up themselves, while a third one was shot in the head by security men,” Bugti said. Earlier, officials had said there were five to six gunmen. 

A Reuters photographer at the scene said authorities carried out the body of a teenaged boy who they said was one of the attackers and had been shot dead by security forces. 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army chief General Raheel Sharif both travelled to Quetta after the attack. 

One of the top military commanders in Baluchistan, General Sher Afgun, told media that calls intercepted between the attackers and their handlers suggested they were from the sectarian Sunni militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). 

“We came to know from the communication intercepts that there were three militants who were getting instructions from Afghanistan,” Afgun told media, adding that the Al Alami faction of LeJ was behind the attack. 

LeJ, whose roots are in the heartland Punjab province, has a history of carrying out sectarian attacks in Baluchistan, particularly against the minority Hazara Shias. Pakistan has previously accused LeJ of colluding with al-Qaeda. 

Authorities launched a crackdown against LeJ last year, particularly in Punjab province. In a major blow to the organization, Malik Ishaq, the group’s leader, was killed in July 2015 alongside 13 members of the central leadership in what police say was a failed escape attempt. 

“Two, three days ago we had intelligence reports of a possible attack in Quetta city, that is why security was beefed up in Quetta, but they struck at the police training college,” Sanaullah Zehri, chief minister of Baluchistan, told the Geo TV channel.