At least 59 people were killed on Monday night when heavily-armed militants wearing suicide vests stormed a police academy in Pakistan’s Quetta city, officials said on Tuesday terming it as one of the deadliest extremist attacks this year.
The attack on the Balochistan Police College, around 20 km east of Quetta, began at around 11.10 p.m., when three gunmen burst into the sprawling academy, targeting sleeping quarters home to some 700 recruits, and sent terrified young men aged between 15 and 25 fleeing, Dawn online reported.
The attackers had entered the complex through the front gate after shooting the guard manning the check post.
Major General Sher Afgan, chief of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in Balochistan, which led the counter-operation, said “the attack was over in around three hours after we arrived”.
“The operation needed to be conducted with precision therefore it took us four hours to clear the area completely.”
“There were three terrorists and all of them were wearing suicide vests,” he said.
“Two suicide attackers blew themselves up, which resulted in casualties, while the third one was shot dead by our troops.”
He added that the militants were communicating with their handlers in Afghanistan.
Afgan said communication intercepts showed the attackers belonged to Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s (LJ) Al-Alimi faction, which is affiliated with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The group itself, however, has not claimed the attack.
The attack left at least 120 people were injured and the cadets were rescued from the college following an operation carried out by Special Services Group (SSG) commandos, Dawn online noted.
“I saw three men carrying KalashnikovsÂ… they were in camouflage and their faces were hidden,” one cadet told reporters, adding “They started firing and entered the dormitory but I managed to escape by climbing over a wall.”
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.
In August, a suicide bombing at a Quetta hospital killed 73 persons. The attack was later claimed by the Islamic State group and the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.