Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Militants storm police academy in Pak’s Quetta killing 59, ISIS claims responsibility

Militants storm police academy in Pak’s Quetta killing 59, ISIS claims responsibility

Published Oct 25, 2016, 1:59 pm IST

Quetta, Pakistan: Militants wearing suicide vests stormed a Pakistani police academy in the southwestern city of Quetta overnight, killing at least 59 people, mostly police cadets and recruits, and waging a ferocious gunbattle with troops that lasted into early hours Tuesday. The attack was carried out by "Islamic State fighters", the group's Amaq news agency said.

In August, Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a gathering of mourners at a hospital in Quetta that killed 70 people. But that attack was also claimed by Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat-ur-Ahrar.
Pakistani officials feared the death toll could rise further, as the four-hours-long siege - one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistan's security forces in recent years - left 117 wounded, some of them in critical condition.
The assault caught many of the recruits asleep in their dorms and forced cadets and trainers to jump off rooftops and run for their lives to escape the attackers.

While most of the casualties were police cadets and others at the academy, some of the army personnel who responded to the assault were also among those killed, said Shahzada Farhat, police spokesman in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province.
By mid-morning Tuesday, a little known breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Hakimullah group, issued a statement claiming responsibility for the assault. But Pakistani authorities, doubting the group's capabilities in staging such a coordinated and spectacular assault, could not confirm the claim. There were also unconfirmed reports the Islamic State group was going to issue its own claim on the extremists' Amaq website.

The attack began at 11:30 p.m. on Monday, said Baluchistan Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti, with the militants shooting and killing a police guard at the watch tower before storming into the academy, located on the outskirts of Quetta.
There were disparate figures as to the number of attackers. Provincial police chief Ahsan Mahboob said four gunmen were involved in the assault while a military statement later said there were up to six attackers.
About 700 cadets, trainees, instructors and other staff were inside the academy when it was attacked, Bugti said, adding that the gunbattle with the militants lasted for at least four hours.

Once inside the academy grounds, Pakistani media said the gunmen headed straight to the dorms housing the cadets and trainees and opened fire, shooting indiscriminately. Some of the cadets jumped off the rooftops and through windows to try to escape.
"They were rushing toward our building, firing," one cadet told Pakistani Geo TV news channel. "We rushed for safety toward the roof and jumped down in the back of the building."

Another recruit, his face covered in blood, told the station the gunmen shot at whoever they saw. "I ran away, just praying God might save me," he said.
After the attack, Pakistani forces tightened security around the academy and Quetta hospitals were the wounded were taken. Footage aired on local television stations showed ambulances rushing out of the main entrance of the academy as fire engines struggled to put out fires set off by the explosions from the attackers' suicide vests.
Most of those being treated at the city hospitals had gunshot wounds, although some sustained injuries jumping off the rooftop of the hostel housing the cadets to escape the gunmen.

"This war isn't over," said Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. "The enemy is weakened, but not eliminated."
Maj. Gen. Sher Afgan, head of the Pakistani paramilitary force which is primarily responsible for the province, claimed the attackers had received instructions from commanders in neighboring Afghanistan. He said they were most likely from the banned Lashker-e-Jhangvi Al-Almi militant group affiliated with al-Qaida and the Taliban. The Sunni militant group has mainly targeted minority Shiite Muslims whom its members consider to be infidels.

The paramilitary chief spoke before the Hakimullah group's claim surfaced.
Afghanistan condemned the attack and dismissed Pakistan's allegations that the assault was planned from bases inside Afghanistan. "Afghanistan is the biggest victim of terrorism and denounces all terrorist attacks," said Mohammad Haroon Chakhansuri, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
In a separate statement, Ghani also condemned the attack, saying that "terrorism is a threat throughout the region, which is reflected in the brutal act today in Quetta."
Pakistan maintains that militants fleeing army operations in the tribal regions regularly escape across the border, finding safe havens inside Afghanistan. For his part, Ghani has been deeply critical of Pakistan, saying it has provided safe havens to the Taliban and in particular the violent Haqqani network.

For over a decade, Baluchistan has been the scene of a low-intensity insurgency by nationalist and separatist groups demanding a bigger share in the regional resources. Islamic militants and Sunni sectarian also have a presence in the province.
Pakistan has carried out several military operations against militants in country's lawless tribal regions along Afghanistan border, including a major push that started mid 2014 in North Waziristan, a militant base. The Islamic militants have killed tens of thousands of people in their bid to overthrow Pakistan's government and install their own harsh brand of Islamic law.

Pakistan mourns its dead in Quetta terror attack

Published Oct 26, 2016, 3:42 pm IST

Quetta: Pakistan's Quetta city came to a standstill on Wednesday to mourn the 61 young cadets killed by Islamic State terrorists at a police training academy in one the deadliest assaults in the restive Balochistan province.

The streets wore a deserted look and people's faces were sombre a day after the tragedy struck the provincial capital. Most of the shops were closed and the national flag was put at half-mast.

Funerals were underway as families bury some of the 61 people, most of them in their early 20s, killed in the attack. Some of the dead bodies were sent to their native areas for burial. A collective funeral prayer was organised here yesterday amid tight security.
Nationalist and religious political parties in Quetta have called a strike to pressure law enforcement agencies into taking action against the elements involved in the attack.
Quetta traders have expressed support to the call and said all businesses and offices will remain shut in the city of nearly six lakh people.

Shops and activities remained halted in Chaman, Pishin, Loralai and other parts of Balochistan, which has been plagued by insurgency and sectarian killings for more than a decade.

Security forces have been deployed at sensitive areas of Quetta, a day after Islamic State militants attacked the facility when most of the cadets rested and were caught off-guard. Most of the terrified recruits had jumped out of windows and rooftops to escape the carnage as militants armed with Kalashnikovs went room-to-room to hunt them down.
Balochistan government has announced three days of mourning. It today said an investigation team led by a Senior Superintendent of Police has been formed to probe the carnage at the college, which was home to around 700 cadets.

Deputy Inspector General Police Quetta Abdul Razzaq Cheema said, "The support of Punjab's forensic agency will also be sought."

"The team will visit the site of the carnage and speak to survivors of the tragedy to probe the incident," Cheema was quoted as saying by Dawn.
The Monday night attack was not the first on security personnel in Pakistan. Militants have conducted many attacks against security forces and installations in Balochistan.

Despite that, a lack of security and poor infrastructure, that included a five-feet mud-wall perimetre, was blamed for the attack on the academy.
The facility has been attacked twice before. In 2006, six policemen were killed in five blasts and in 2008 gunmen fired rockets into the academy grounds.
Officials, however, have assured that investigations are going on to determine the identity of the attackers and their promoters. Islamic State and Taliban have claimed the attack but the government has accused Lashkar-e-Janghvi group.
Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday reviewed the situation.

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