QUETTA, Pakistan, Oct 25, (AFP): Pakistan on Tuesday 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 Balochistan Police College, around 20 kms (12 miles) 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 Balochistan 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 Balochistan which led the counter-operation, blamed the attack on the Pakistani Taleban-affi liated 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 Taleban in Karachi,” it said, adding that four fi ghters took part.