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60 dead in attack at police academy

Quetta, Pakistan— Heavily-armed Islamist militants wearing suicide vests stormed a Pakistani police academy, killing at least 60 people and wounding dozens more, officials said Tuesday, in one of the deadliest extremist attacks this year.

Three gunmen from a Pakistani Taliban-linked group burst into the sprawling academy, targeting sleeping quarters that are home to some 700 recruits, sending terrified young men fleeing.

The bodies of police cadets are covered with blankets, as the body of one of the suspected militants lies at a distance after a brutal siege at a police training center in Quetta, Pakistan, Tuesday. (EPA)

The bodies of police cadets are covered with blankets, as the body of one of the suspected militants lies at a distance after a brutal siege at a police training center in Quetta, Pakistan, Tuesday. (EPA)

”I saw three men in camouflage whose faces were hidden carrying Kalashnikovs,” one cadet told reporters. ”They started firing and entered the dormitory but I managed to escape over a wall.”

The attack on the Balochistan Police College, around 20 kilometres east of provincial capital Quetta, began at around 11:10 pm Monday, with gunfire continuing to ring out at the site for several hours.

Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister of Balochistan province, told reporters there had been three attackers.

”They first targeted the watch tower sentry, and after exchanging fire, killed him and were able to enter the academy grounds,” he said.

Balochistan’s provincial government spokesman Anwarullah Kakar told AFP that 60 people had died in the attack, with 118 injured, mostly minor wounds.

The head of the local hospital, doctor Fareed Sumalani, confirmed that their morgue had received at least 60 bodies.

Security was tight outside the academy Tuesday morning, with media kept out of the building as a large contingent of security forces swept the area.

Weeping relatives arrived at the academy and were sent to the main hospital, where authorities were starting to prepare for funerals.

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 communications intercepts showed 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 home to some 700 recruits, hundreds of whom were rescued.

The area was plunged into darkness when the counter-offensive was launched, while security personnel threw up a cordon and ambulances zoomed in and out, taking the injured to hospitals. Military helicopters circled overhead.