25 Oct 2016

Pakistan: Dozens killed in attack on police college

7:59 pm on 25 October 2016

Militants have stormed a Pakistani police training college in the city of Quetta, killing at least 59 people and wounding more than 100, officials say.

Pakistani relatives mourn the loss of family members after the attack in Quetta.

Relatives mourn the loss of family members after the attack at Balochistan Police College in Quetta. Photo: AFP

Some 200 trainees were stationed at the facility, officials said, and some were taken hostage during the five-hour attack, Reuters reported.

Three militants wearing bomb vests were believed to have stormed the college. All were killed.

Balochistan home minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said the men had attacked a dormitory inside the province's police college while cadets rested and slept.

A major security operation lasted for hours after the attackers entered the building and opened fire.

"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 cadet who survived told local media.

Two of the militants died after detonating their bomb vests and one was killed by security forces, Mr Bugti said.

Pakistani troops arrive at the police training College in Quetta after the attack.

Pakistani troops arrive at the police training facility after the attack Photo: AFP

Pakistan's army and Frontier Corps took part in the military counter-operation, which Mr Bugti said was now over.

Gunfire and explosions could be heard well after the attack was launched, witnesses said.

"They were rushing toward our building firing shots so we rushed for safety toward the roof and jumped down in the back to save our lives,'' a police trainee told Pakistan's Geo TV.

A Pakistani soldier stands guard outside the police training college.

A soldier stands guard outside the police college Photo: AFP

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but 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," the general told media, adding that the Al Alami cell of LeJ was behind the attack.

LeJ, which has its roots in the heartland Punjab province of Pakistan, has a history of carrying out sectarian attacks in Balochistan, particularly against the minority Hazara Shias.

Pakistan has previously accused LeJ of colluding with Al Qaeda.

Authorities launched a crackdown against the former group last year. In a major blow to the organisation, Malik Ishaq, the group's leader, was killed in July 2015 alongside 13 other members of the central leadership in what police say was a failed escape attempt.

A home ministry official said it was unclear what motive the group would have in attacking the police academy.

"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," Balochistan chief minister Sanaullah Zehri told Geo TV.

Earlier in the day, two customs officers were shot dead and another critically wounded in Surab, south of Quetta.

Quetta is the provincial capital of Balochistan, where separatist groups and Islamist militants have both carried out similar attacks in the past.

In August, 88 people were killed in separate bomb attacks targeting a hospital and lawyers in Quetta.

The Pakistani military has been conducting military operations against militants in volatile tribal areas near the Afghan border.

- BBC / Reuters

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