At least 35 security personnel were martyred, and over 100 others injured as terrorists stormed a police training centre on the edge of the provincial capital late Monday night.
Three terrorists opened entered the New Sariab Police Training College, some 13 kilometres away from Quetta city. The terrorists headed straight for the hostel where around 250 police recruits were sleeping.
Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti told reporters assembled at the
site early Tuesday that the sprawling compound had been attacked by three militants equipped with suicide jackets, revising down an earlier estimate of “five to six” assailants.
“They first targeted the watch tower sentry, and after exchanging fire killed him and were able to enter the academy grounds,” he said. “At least 20 were killed but this figure isn’t final – we’ll confirm it in the morning,” he said, putting the provisional number of injured at 65.
He added, “Frontier Corps’ Quick Responce Force (QRF) wing responded along with Anti-Terrorist Force (ATF) and [Pakistan Army’s] Light Commando Battallion…one terrorist was killed while two of them exploded”.
Terrorists belonged to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
Major General Sher Afgan, chief of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in Balochistan, which led the counter-operation, said “the attack was over in around three hours after we arrived.”
He added that the militants belonged to the Al-Alimi faction of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group – which is affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban. “They were in communication with operatives in Afghanistan,” he said. The group itself has not claimed the attack.
Bugti said the compound was housing some 700 recruits at the time of the attack, hundreds of whom were rescued.
The area was plunged into darkness when the counter-offensive was launched, while security personnel created a cordon and ambulances zoomed in and out, taking the injured to hospitals. Military helicopters circled overhead.
Two FC personnel gunned down in Quetta
Bugti said the law enforcers cleared the operation within four hours, adding that “99% the operation is complete but the forces will remain in the centre till daylight”.
The training college is situated on Sariab Road, one of the most sensitive areas of Quetta. While militants have been targeting security forces in the area for almost a decade, the training college has come under attack in 2006 and 2008.
The casualties were driven to different hospitals of the city where a state of emergency was declared. Provincial authorities, in the meantime, also made arrangements to fly those with critical wounds to hospitals in Karachi.
Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri said that the terrorists attacked the police centre, which is located on the edge of Quetta, after they failed to hit a target in the provincial capital where security was on high alert following intelligence information about a possible attack three or four days back.
The attack came a day after separatist gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead two coast guards and a civilian and wounded a shopkeeper in Gwadar.
In August, a suicide bombing at a Quetta hospital claimed by the Islamic State group and the Jamaatul Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban 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 also 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.
Pakistan blames India for fuelling terrorism in Balochistan in an attempt to sabotage CPEC. A senior officer of Indian navy, Kulbushan Yadav, was arrested from Balochistan earlier this year.