At least 61 security personnel, mostly young cadets, were massacred and 165 others injured when heavily-armed Islamic State militants stormed a police training centre in Quetta in the restive Balochistan province, the deadliest terror attack on a security facility in Pakistan.
The hours-long attack on the facility -- which was home to nearly 700 recruits -- started late Monday night and continued till early hours of Tuesday.
At least three gunmen stormed Quetta's sprawling Police Training College and targeted the sleeping quarters of recruits. They first killed a police guard at the watch tower and then stormed the dormitory while cadets rested.
The attack sent the terrified men aged between 15 and 25 fleeing for safety. Many of the cadets jumped off the rooftop in a bid to escape the carnage.
Eyewitnesses said the attackers were armed with Kalashnikovs. The attack appeared well coordinated, with experts saying the militants fired at the training centre from five separate points.
Most of the deaths occured when two of the attackers blew themselves up. The third was shot dead by Frontier Corps troops.
"We can confirm 61 dead in the attack at the police training college. They include 60 police cadets and one army solider," officials said.
165 people were injured in the attack and about 20 of them were critical.
IG Frontier Corps (FC) Major General Sher Afgan said the three terrosists were believed to be from the Al-Alimi faction of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group affiliated to Pakistani Taliban.
He told reporters the militants were communicating with handlers in Afghanistan and taking instructions from them. All three attackers were wearing suicide vests.
However, later Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. It said three attackers were deployed for the attack but did not state the motive for the assault.
The LeJ has roots in Punjab province and has a history of carrying out sectarian attacks in Balochistan, particularly against the minority Shias.
Other groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Karachi and the Hakimullah group also claimed of responsibility for the attack.
However, the spokesperson for the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Mohammad Khorasani, said the group has not received any information from its militants regarding the attack.
Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif reached Quetta to take stock of the situation. He attended the funeral prayer of those killed and visited the facility, where he was briefed on the attack by officials.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also arrived in Quetta and chaired high-level meetings here. Sharif directed all law enforcement agencies in the province to take strict action against banned outfits.
Chief Minister Balochistan Sanaullah Zehri announced three days of mourning across the province.
A Pakistan Army captain, who was killed during an attack, and a Naib Subedar were awarded gallantry awards.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif today announced Tamgha-i-Jurat for Captain Roohullah and Tamgha-i-Basalat for Naib Subedar Muhammad Ali, an army statement said.
The statement said the two men neutralised one suicide bomber and cornered another, helping a large number of police recruits escape before the militant exploded his suicide vest.
Roohullah died in the attack, whereas Ali sustained injuries and was admitted to Quetta's Civil Hospital.
The Balochistan government came under attack over poor security arrangements at the police training academy.
Senior security officials said the terrorists managed to enter the facility, that has been previously attacked twice, taking advantange of the the inadequate security arrangements.
Despite percieved security threats, the boundary wall of the centre was made up of mud and five-feet high, officials said.
They said security should have been enhanced since the facility was located in one of Quetta's sensitive areas.
On September 6, Inspector General Police Balochistan, Ahsan Mehboob had requested the Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri for construction of a boundary wall for the academy.
Zehri had promised the construction of a wall. The attack, however, took place before the wall could be constructed.
Parrikar uses 'Bhasmasur' analogy to warn Pak against aiding terror
Citing the example of ‘Bhasmasur’, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday expressed regret over the loss of lives in the deadly attack on a police training academy in Pakistan’s Quetta that left 60 cadets dead, saying such incidents show why one should not create ‘uncontrollable violence’.
He also rejected Pakistan’s allegations of India’s involvement in the attack, saying India does not believe in violence, least of all such kind of violence.
Parrikar clarified that he was not likening any country to any asur (demon in Hindu mythology) when asked about the Quetta attack and said there is a saying in India about Bhasmasur.
According to the Hindu mythology, 'Bhasmasur' was a demon who was burned to ashes through his own power that he used to terrorise others with.
“I express grief for any loss of life. We don't believe in violence and this kind of violence. My sympathies are with people who lost their lives. Terrorism anywhere and in any form cannot be justified,” he said.
“Non-state actors should not be supported by any country. That is crux of our security doctrine. We have said that non-state actors, who are involved in terrorism, should be curtailed. Sometimes it can bounce on you also. I think this is one of such event,” Parrikar said.