Islamic State claims attack on Pakistan
police academy, 59 dead
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[October 25, 2016]
By Gul Yusufzai
QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Militant group
Islamic State on Tuesday said its fighters attacked a police training
college in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, in a raid that
officials said killed 59 people and wounded more than 100.
Hundreds of trainees were stationed at the facility when masked gunmen
stormed the college on the outskirts of Quetta late on Monday. Some
cadets were taken hostage during the raid, which lasted nearly five
hours. Most of the dead were cadets.
"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 police cadet who survived told media.
Other cadets at the college spoke of jumping out of windows and cowering
under beds as masked gunmen hunted them down.
Video footage from inside one of the barracks showed blackened walls and
rows of charred beds.
Islamic State's Amaq news agency published the claim of responsibility,
saying three IS fighters "used machine guns and grenades, then blew up
their explosive vests in the crowd".
But Pakistani officials earlier said another Sunni extremist group,
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was probably behind the raid.
Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister of the province of Baluchistan, whose
capital is Quetta, said the gunmen attacked a dormitory in the training
facility, while cadets rested and slept.
"Two attackers blew up themselves, while a third one was shot in the
head by security men," Bugti said. Earlier, officials had said there
were five to six gunmen.
A Reuters photographer at the scene said authorities carried out the
body of a teenaged boy who they said was one of the attackers and had
been shot dead by security forces.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army chief General Raheel Sharif both
travelled to Quetta after the attack.
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,
"We came to know from the communication intercepts that there were three
militants who were getting instructions from Afghanistan," Afgun told
media, adding that the Al Alami faction of LeJ was behind the attack.
LeJ, whose roots are in the heartland Punjab province, has a history of
carrying out sectarian attacks in Baluchistan, particularly against the
minority Hazara Shias. Pakistan has previously accused LeJ of colluding
with al Qaeda.
Authorities launched a crackdown against LeJ last year, particularly in
Punjab province. In a major blow to the organization, Malik Ishaq, the
group's leader, was killed in July 2015 alongside 13 members of the
central leadership in what police say was a failed escape attempt.
"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," Sanaullah Zehri, chief minister
of Baluchistan, told the Geo TV channel.
Pakistan has improved its security situation in recent years but
Islamist groups continue to pose a threat and stage major attacks in the
mainly Muslim nation of 190 million.
Islamic State has sought to make inroads over the past year, hoping to
exploit the country's growing sectarian divisions.
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Relatives of police cadets wait for word outside the Police Training
Center after an attack on the center in Quetta, Pakistan October 25,
2016. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed
Monday night's assault on the police college was the deadliest in
Pakistan since a suicide bomber killed 70 people in an attack on
mourners gathered at a hospital in Quetta in August.
The August attack was claimed by IS, but also by a Pakistani Taliban
The military had dismissed previous Islamic State claims of
responsibility and last month said it had crushed the Middle
East-based group's attempt to expand in Pakistan. It also dismissed
previous IS claims of responsibility as 'propaganda'.
Analysts say Islamic State clearly has a presence in Pakistan and
there is growing evidence that some local groups are working with
"The problem with this government is that it seems to be in a
complete state of denial," said Zahid Hussain, an Islamabad-based
HIDING UNDER BEDS
Wounded cadets spoke of scurrying for cover after being woken by the
sound of bullets.
"I was asleep, my friends were there as well, and we took cover
under the beds," one unidentified cadet told Geo TV. "My friends
were shot, but I only received a (small) wound on my head."
Another cadet said he did not have ammunition to fight back.
Officials said the attackers targeted the center's hostel, where
around 200 to 250 police recruits were resting. At least three
explosions were reported at the scene by media.
Quetta has long been regarded as a base for the Afghan Taliban,
whose leadership has regularly held meetings there.
Baluchistan is no stranger to violence, with separatist fighters
launching regular attacks on security forces for nearly a decade and
the military striking back.
Militants, particularly sectarian groups, have also launched a
campaign of suicide bombings and assassinations of minority Shias.
Attacks are becoming rarer but security forces need to be more
alert, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan warned.
"Our problem is that when an attack happens, we are alert for a week
after, ten days later, until 20 days pass, (but) then it goes back
to business as usual," he said.
"We need to be alert all the time."
(Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in KARACHI and Mehreen
Zahra-Malik and Asad Hashim in ISLAMABAD; Mohamed el Sherif in
CAIRO; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Catherine Evans and
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