117 recruits injured; Three terrorists killed; 3-day mourning in Balochistan, one day in Punjab, KP, Sindh; Terrorists were getting instructions from Afghanistan
Quetta—Heavily-armed militants wearing suicide jackets stormed a police academy in Quetta, killing at least 61 people and wounding 117, dozens seriously, in one of the deadliest militant attacks this year, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said Tuesday. (Partially covered in Tuesday issue)
Addressing a press conference after the security forces retook control of the police facility from terrorists, Sarfaraz Bugti, Home Minister of Balochistan said that 61 persons embraced martyrdom in the attack while 117 were wounded.
Bugti said that contingents of Army, Frontier Corps and other law enforcement agencies arrived at the scene soon after the attack and launched an operation. Helicopters and drones were also used for surveillance.
He further said that one of the terrorists detonated his suicide vest before the arrival of security forces, causing most of the deaths. The Balochistan government on Tuesday announced three-day mourning for those who lost their lives in Monday night’s terrorist attack.
Sarfraz Bugti told newsmen that the attack was carried out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s Al Alimi militants who were continuously getting instructions from Afghanistan. “They were in communication with operatives in Afghanistan,” he said.
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. Communication intercepts showed the attack was carried out by Al-Alimi faction of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militant group, IG Frontier Corps Major General Sher Afgan said.
Separately, the militant Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the group’s Amaq news agency. Most of the deaths were caused when two of the attackers blew themselves up. The third was shot dead by Frontier Corps troops.
“I saw three men carrying Kalashnikovs… they were in camouflage and their faces were hidden,” one cadet told reporters. “They started firing and entered the dormitory but I managed to escape by climbing over a wall,” a recruit told media.
Sarfaraz Bugti confirmed to reporters that 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.
“We have taken one of the suicide bombers’ bodies into custody,” Bugti said.
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. 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 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. Two suicide attackers blew themselves up, which resulted in casualties.”
Afgan said communication intercepts showed the attackers belonged to LJ’s Al-Alimi faction, which is affiliated with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. The group itself, however, has not claimed the attack.
The area was plunged into darkness when a counter-offensive was launched, and security personnel threw up a cordon while ambulances zoomed in and out, taking the injured to hospitals. Military helicopters circled overhead.
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.
A senior law enforcement agency’s official said assailants had fired at the police training centre from five different points.
Two terrorists entered the premises after shooting at the guard manning the check post near the front gate, while the third reportedly climbed the rear wall of the police centre. “Two attackers entered through the front gate,” Senior Superintendent Police Operations Mohammad Iqbal had said earlier.
Iqbal said that the suicide jacket of one attacker was not detonated and his body was lying at the centre premises. Initial investigations showed the terrorists had entered the hostel, he said. The SSP said that there had been trouble distinguishing friend from foe as it was dark at the time.
An eyewitness speaking to reporters after making a narrow escape said he saw three terrorists directly enter the barracks. “They started firing. We saw them and started screaming. We ran upstairs towards an exit.”
He described the terrorists covered in shawls.
The barracks and hostel blocks are situated deep inside the compound, making it hard to hear any sounds of gunshots from the building.
Asif Hussain, a recruit at the academy, told media he was lying in bed and browsing Facebook on his cell phone when the attack began. “We’d been told that if anything like this ever happens, we should hide ourselves under our charpoys and not show ourselves. When the firing started, all of us lay down under our charpoys, turned off the lights and closed the door,” he said.
“We heard a loud explosion downstairs. These people broke down the door and started shooting at them one by one. They tried to break our door, but were unable to. Then they started shooting our windows in. They couldn’t get in. Only two boys in our room were injured,” he said. The injured cadets were brought to Civil Hospital. Those in critical condition were shifted to CMH Quetta.
Extraordinary security arrangements were made in and outside the Civil Hospital to prevent any untoward incident.
An emergency was declared in all government hospitals of the provincial capital, with the injured shifted to Civil Hospital Quetta and the Bolan Medical Complex. The initial investigation into the attack revealed that militants used C4 chemical which is highly explosive. Sources said that the attackers, including a 12-year-old boy, were Afghan Uzbeks and were wearing suicide jackets.
The provincial governments of Punjab, KP, and Sindh have announced to observe three-day mourning for the innocent police jawans martyred in the deadly terrorist attack.
The funeral prayers of the security forces personal were offered in Quetta on Tuesday afternoon which were attended among others by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. General Rizwan Akhtar, Chief Minister Balochistan Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, Commander Southern Command, IG FC Major General Sher Afghan, and other top civilian and military officials.
Prayers for eternal peace of the departed soul were offered after the funeral. The bodies of the martyred were later sent to their ancestral areas for burial.
Balochistan government spokesman, Anwar ul Haq Kakar admitted that security arrangements around the facility were not up to the mark.
Talking to BBC Urdu, he said no special measures were in place for the security of the college. “In the wake of current circumstances there should have been better and exemplary arrangements.”
Meanwhile, speaking to media, Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri said that the government had received intelligence reports a couple of days earlier of the presence of militants who had entered Quetta to carry out subversive activities. “I am personally monitoring the security situation at the moment. Those responsible for the terrorist attack will be brought to book,” he added. Zehri said that as soon as the government had received intelligence reports of the presence of militants in the city, Quetta had been put on high alert.