Mil­i­tants kill 61 in Pak po­lice at­tack

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

QUETTA: Pak­istan yes­ter­day mourned the killing of at least 61 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 masked gun­men burst into the sprawl­ing academy in the south­west, pre­tend­ing to be sol­diers as they tar­geted sleep­ing quar­ters home to some 700 re­cruits, in a strike that sent ter­ri­fied young men flee­ing.

“They... knocked at the locked rooms and told the cadets that they were from the army, and when they opened the doors, they fired at them,” a 22-year-old cadet called Hik­mat­ul­lah told AFP from his hospi­tal bed, where he was re­cov­er­ing from a gun­shot wound to the shoul­der.

“They came in by jump­ing over the walls of the academy which are very low. I ran away from my room and was hit by a bul­let, I still man­aged to flee.”

The at­tack on the Baluchis­tan Po­lice Col­lege, around 20 km east of the provin­cial cap­i­tal Quetta, be­gan around 11:10 pm (1810 GMT) on Mon­day, with gun­fire con­tin­u­ing to ring out at the site for sev­eral hours. Sar­faraz Bugti, home min­is­ter of Baluchis­tan prov­ince, told re­porters the at­tack­ers first killed a tower sen­try be­fore ac­cess­ing the grounds. A morgue list seen by AFP de­tailed 61 peo­ple killed in the at­tack, while 118 were in­jured, ac­cord­ing to a government spokesman.

Ma­jor Gen­eral Sher Af­gan, chief of the para­mil­i­tary Fron­tier Corps in Baluchis­tan which led the coun­ter­op­er­a­tion, blamed the at­tack on the Pak­istani Tale­banaf­fil­i­ated Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) mil­i­tant group, and said the counter-strike was over in three hours. An emailed claim from the Pak­istani Tale­ban, which shares close op­er­a­tional ties with LeJ, backed that as­ser­tion. “This at­tack was car­ried (out on the in­struc­tions of) Mul­lah Daud Man­sour, close ally of Hakimul­lah Mehsud and head of Pak­istani Tal­iban in Karachi,” it said, adding that four fighters took part.

It said the at­tack was re­venge for the deaths of its fighters “out­side jails” in Pun­jab prov­ince, in an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to the re­cent surge in ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings 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. LeJ of­fi­cially pledges al­le­giance to Al-Qaeda, the IS group’s ma­jor ri­val. But the dual claims could be ev­i­dence of new link­ages that re­main un­of­fi­cial, an­a­lysts say.

“Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s claim seems to carry more weigh­tage but IS has re­leased pho­to­graphs of the mil­i­tants and this link be­tween LeJ and IS will be de­ter­mined in the com­ing days,” said an­a­lyst Amir Rana, the di­rec­tor of the Pak­istan In­sti­tute for Peace Stud­ies, a think-tank. Pak­istan’s top mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence com­mand, in­clud­ing army chief Raheel Sharif, at­tended an of­fi­cial fu­neral cer­e­mony for the vic­tims, whose bod­ies were laid in coffins draped in white and borne by sol­diers in dress uni­form.

Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif later flew to Quetta to chair a high-level se­cu­rity meet­ing, while Wash­ing­ton con­demned the “cow­ardly at­tack”. “The United States stands with the peo­ple of Pak­istan and re­it­er­ates our com­mit­ment to sup­port the government of Pak­istan in its ef­forts to end the scourge of ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism and to pro­mote peace, se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion,” said a White House spokesman.

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. The com­pound re­mained sealed to jour­nal­ists while weep­ing rel­a­tives were sent to the main hospi­tal, where cit­i­zens rushed to do­nate blood. Min­eral-rich but im­pov­er­ished Baluchis­tan, Pak­istan’s largest prov­ince, is be­set by sec­tar­ian strife, Is­lamist vi­o­lence and an on-off sep­a­ratist in­sur­gency that has lasted for decades. — AFP

— AP

QUETTA, Pak­istan: Peo­ple wait to col­lect the bod­ies of their fam­ily mem­bers who died in an at­tack on the Po­lice Train­ing Academy yes­ter­day.

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