Terror siege of Pakistan police academy ends, 27 dead


Lahore : Pakistani security forces Monday regained control of a police training centre near Lahore after an eight-hour battle with Islamist militants that left 27 security personnel dead in one of the most audacious terror attacks in the country.

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At least 90 others were injured, some grievously.

An unspecified number of terrorists, including possibly some Afghans, stormed the police training academy at Manawan, towards the Indian border, at 7.20 a.m. when hundreds of police recruits were taking part in their usual morning parade.

The attackers first threw a grenade and then hurled many more, taking the mostly unarmed policemen and the few armed security personnel by surprise.

In no time, the terrorists, some of who were dressed in police uniform, scaled the walls of the sprawling academy and made their way inside firing away. Several police trainees were killed instantly.

What happened next was not very clear. But Pakistani media reported that the attackers, who appeared to know the building’s layout, took control of the complex, taking a large number of police personnel hostage.

But many other policemen managed to crawl to the main gate and escaped, alerting the authorities about the extent and intensity of the attack, which comes after the March 3 strike on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore.

Pakistan rushed reinforcements sparking fierce gunbattles, but it still took nearly eight long hours to capture three or four terrorists, including an Afghan.

Helicopters hovered overhead as crack assault teams and snipers took up positions at the training centre.

“The operation has been ended and a number of terrorists apprehended alive. Four terrorists were shot dead. One was arrested earlier,” Interior Ministry Chief Rehman Malik told Geo TV.

The first sign that the terrorist siege was over came when jubilant security personnel on the rooftop of the police academy began firing away in the air. Many of them shouted slogans hailing Pakistan.

The Pakistani media said two of the terrorists had blown themselves up. It was not clear if they belonged to any group.

Geo TV reported that an armed man who was walking towards helicopters that landed close to the police complex was arrested. Two hand grenades were recovered from him.

Some officials identified him as an Afghan national.

Eyewitness accounts put the number of attackers at between 10 and 12. Some others said up to 25 had attacked the centre.

An injured police trainee told Geo TV what happened in the morning: “A grenade was lobbed at the parade ground from outside. Then seven to eight more grenades were thrown. They (the attackers) then entered the area and started firing indiscriminately at us. This continued for 20 minutes.”

“We lay low on the ground and crawled towards the main gate. We were rescued from there,” he added.

Security personnel very soon took on the attackers, who took up positions inside various buildings in the complex.

Television footage showed bodies of policemen on the parade ground. But the security forces had difficulty in identifying the attackers as they were wearing blue and khaki police uniforms, DPA said.

Rehman Malik said the terror strike was similar to the November 2008 Mumbai carnage that left more than 170 people dead.

“This is an attack on the country by forces which do not want to see Pakistan stable,” he said. “There should be unity at the political level and all levels.”

Pakistan had been hit by a “wave of terrorism”, he said, adding that the attackers were trained and had “used terror as a weapon”.

Malik admitted that the police training centre was not secure and that its buildings were not designed to cope with terror strikes. “New buildings will have enhanced security.”