Three terrorists stormed a police training college in Quetta Monday night, prompting an operation by military and Frontier Corps forces to clear the premises which houses at least 600 police cadets.
At least 51 people, mostly cadets, were killed and 97 were injured in the attack, said provincial officials.
During a press conference earlier, Inspector General Frontier Corps (FC) Major General Sher Afgan, while sharing details of the operation, said that the actual count of casualties cannot be confirmed right now “but more than 20 people were killed in the attack and 65 injured”.
The IG FC said the terrorists were communicating with their handlers in Afghanistan. “There were three terrorists and all of them were wearing suicide vests,” he added.
“Two suicide attackers blew themselves up, which resulted in casualties, while the third one was shot dead by our troops.”
The operation needed to be conducted with precision therefore it took us four hours to clear the area completely, he added.
“No recruit sustained critical wounds; however, some military personnel who conducted the operation received critical wounds.”
Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti also confirmed the death toll and said that the clearance operation has been successfully completed.
The attackers were engaged in an intermittent exchange of fire with security forces for several hours, with reports of a hostage situation. At least three terrorists were reportedly killed, with security forces saying the operation has concluded.
The cadets were rescued from the college following an operation carried out by Special Services Group (SSG) commandos.
At least three explosions were reported at the scene by local media, with one journalist saying the explosions rocked the area. Gunfire and explosions were heard from inside the centre, as the terrorists were said to be carrying AK-47s and grenades.
Two army helicopters provided aerial surveillance of the area.
At least 65 people were injured and were treated at Civil Hospital, of which five sustained bullet wounds. Three were said to be in critical condition.
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 located about 13 kilometres outside the main city of Quetta.
- Three terrorists attacked a police training college at 9:30pm
- 51 cadets killed in suicide blasts
- At least 97 injured
- All terrorists killed
‘Darkness hindered operation’
The attackers reportedly entered the complex through the front gate after shooting the guard manning the check post, and the attack started at 9:30pm.
Senior law enforcement agencies said that assailants had fired at the police training centre from five different points.
Two terrorist reportedly 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,” SSP Operations Mohammad Iqbal had said earlier.
Iqbal further said that the suicide jacket of one attacker was not detonated and his body was lying at the centre premises.
He had added that initial investigations showed the terrorists were in the hostel, and as it was dark, there was trouble in identifying friend from foe.
‘The attackers were wearing shawls’
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 being 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.
Security beefed up at hospital
More than 20 injured cadets were being brought to Civil Hospital so far. Those in critical condition were shifted to CMH Quetta.
Extraordinary security arrangements were made in and outside the hospital to prevent any untoward incident, especially in the wake of August 8 attack when a suicide attacker targeted the hospital.
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.
Injured rushed to hospital after attack
Forces rush to site of attack
Police Training College cordoned off
In August, a suicide bombing at a Quetta hospital claimed by the Islamic State group and the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar killed 73 people, including many of the city’s lawyer community who had gone there to mourn the fatal shooting of a colleague.
Balochistan is a key region for China’s ambitious $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project linking its western province of Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea via Pakistan.
Security problems have mired CPEC in the past with numerous attacks, but China has said it is confident the Pakistani military is in control.