islamist militants kill 60 in pakistan police attack
Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
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On a security installation in the country's history

Islamist militants kill 60 in Pakistan police attack

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Islamist militants kill 60 in Pakistan police attack

Pakistani relatives mourn the loss of family members in Quetta
Quetta - Arab Today

Pakistan on Tuesday mourned the killing of at least 60 people in a brutal gun and suicide bomb assault on a police academy, the deadliest attack on a security installation in the country's history.

Three gunmen burst into the sprawling academy in the southwest, targeting sleeping quarters home to some 700 recruits in a strike that sent terrified young men fleeing.

"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 the provincial capital Quetta, began around 11:10 pm (1810 GMT) Monday, with gunfire continuing to ring out at the site for several hours.

Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister of Balochistan province, 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.

Major General Sher Afgan, chief of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in Balochistan which led the counter-operation, blamed the attack on the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militant group, and said the counter-strike was over in three hours.

An emailed claim from the Pakistani Taliban, which shares close operation ties with LeJ, backed that assertion. 

"This attack was carried (on the instructions of) Mullah Daud Mansour, close ally of Hakimullah Mehsud and head of Pakistani Taliban in Karachi," it said, adding four fighters took part.

"This was to avenge the killing of those of our Mujahideen who were killed indiscriminately (in fake encounters) outside jails in Punjab," it said in an apparent reference to the recent surge in extrajudicial executions of LeJ fighters.

The Islamic State group also made a claim via Amaq, its affiliated news agency, and released a picture of what it said were the three attackers. It was the latest competing claim from IS, which has struggled to gain traction in Pakistan against more established groups.

- Funeral honours -

Pakistan's top military and intelligence brass including army chief Raheel Sharif attended an official funeral ceremony for the victims, whose bodies were placed in coffins draped in white and borne by soldiers in dress uniform. 

Balochistan's provincial government spokesman Anwarullah Kakar told AFP that 60 people had died in the attack, with another 118 injured. 

A morgue list seen by AFP listed 61 people though it was not clear whether the figure included any attackers.

It was the third deadliest attack of the year in Pakistan, which has been racked by a homegrown Islamist insurgency since shortly after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Security was tight outside the academy Tuesday, with media kept out of the building as a large contingent of security forces swept the area.

Weeping relatives were sent to the main hospital, where citizens rushed to donate blood.

Bugti said the compound was home to some 700 recruits, hundreds of whom were rescued. Survivors recounted horrific scenes as gunmen burst into their dorm rooms. 

"It was around 10:30 pm, we were sitting and playing cards. Suddenly we heard shots being fired," said a recruit named Arslan. 

"After hearing that, we hid under our beds... thanks to the training we get here (in the police college) we managed to take cover and hide ourselves under those beds."

-- Strife-hit province --

Mineral-rich but impoverished Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province, is beset by sectarian strife, Islamist violence and an on-off separatist insurgency that has lasted for decades.

The army has also repeatedly been accused by international rights groups of abuses there, particularly against nationalists demanding autonomy and a greater share of the region's resources.

In August, a suicide bombing at a Quetta hospital claimed by the Islamic State group and the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban killed 73 people, including many of the city's legal community which had gone there to mourn the fatal shooting of a colleague.

Pakistan has been battling an Islamist insurgency since shortly after it decided to ally with the US following its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Violence has declined in recent years following a series of military offensives in the northwest border areas as well as concerted efforts to block the militants' sources of funding.

But the remnants of militant groups are still able to carry out periodic bloody attacks, particularly in the northwest.

Source: AFP

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