Pakistan is a very different country than Afghanistan, not the least of which is that it is a nuclear power, while also being a haven for alqaeda. Are you concerned about terror attacks in Pakistan ?
27 Killed as Gunmen Storm Police School in Pakistan
March 30, 2009
MANAWAN, Pakistan — Elite police forces overwhelmed more than a dozen well-armed gunmen eight hours after they stormed a police training school here on Monday morning, killing 27 policemen and wounding more than 90 people on the outskirts of Lahore.
After a day of confused explosions and pitched gunfire, during which security forces battled to retake control of the building, rescue workers began evacuating the wounded in ambulances as the fighting subsided.
Fahim Jahan Zeb, an official with the Punjab rescue service, said at least four attackers were arrested and four others had blown themselves up.
Television footage showed Pakistani security forces on the roof of the building. Black-clad special forces operatives shouted in jubilation and fired into the air from the roof of the three-story structure.
A police constable who had been inside the school, Mohammed Imtiaz Khaliq, said one of the attackers had a short beard and was dressed in traditional Pakistani dress and had said repeatedly in Urdu: “I’m a Muslim.”
The constable said he saw at least 30 people critically wounded after he entered the building through a kitchen area where he saw dozens of police recruits and one instructor cowering on a floor, some with blood on their clothing.
The inspector general of police for Punjab Province, Khalid Farook, had said earlier that efforts were being made to capture the attackers alive.
It was the second brazen terrorist attack by gunmen in recent months in the tense Pakistani province of Punjab. In early March, a dozen gunmen in Lahore opened fire on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team and its police escort, killing six police officers and a driver. That assault in the center of the busy provincial capital, a city of nine million people, resulted in the end of international cricket tours to Pakistan, a severe psychological blow.
The attack on the police academy also appeared to be against a carefully selected target, striking at a security institution while hundreds of young recruits were on the parade ground.
The style of the attack also appeared to signal a significant escalation in the efforts by Al Qaeda and the Taliban to destabilize Pakistan at its very heart, rather than at the fringes in the tribal areas. Police and army joined in the attempt to repulse the attack, which took the city by surprise. The assault appeared to have been well-planned, an intelligence expert said. “This took many weeks to plan, someone should have smelled this was going to happen,” said Masood Sharif, the former chief of intelligence in Lahore.
A helicopter ferrying troops to the scene was hit by fire from the attackers, but managed to land safely, according to Dawn television. The bodies of at least six policemen were visible in television images of the compound.
“You can’t even imagine such a situation,” said Saqib Butt, deputy superintendent of Manawa police, as shots rang out behind him. “We were very surprised.”
The secretary of information for Punjab, Taimur Azmat Usman, said three men, including one carrying hand grenades, had been arrested on the perimeter of the compound on suspicion of helping the attackers inside the building.
There was immediate speculation that the assault may have been carried out by Lashkar-e-Jangvi, a sectarian group that recruits in southern Punjab but in recent years has moved to South and North Waziristan to train alongside Al Qaeda. Through the hours-long siege, gunmen held several hundred cadets hostage as police and the attackers exchanged fire inside the center. Armored police vehicles carrying police and rangers drove into gates of the center after the attackers took control and explosions and bursts of heavy gunfire were heard sporadically.
Scores of police vehicles and ambulances crowded around the high walls of the academy as police rushed to the compound. The attackers fired from the roof of the school as a police helicopter was hovering overhead. Police sharpshooters positioned at nearby buildings fired into the compound.
The attackers entered the Manawan police training center, located about 16 miles from Lahore and about eight miles from the Indian border, as the cadets were conducting their morning parade, police said. They threw hand grenades at the parade ground and started firing, they said.
Soon after storming the parade ground, some of the gunmen reached the second and third floors of the main building at the center, a police inspector told Geo television in a telephone interview from the center. The attackers were speaking to each other in Urdu and Punjabi, the languages used in Punjab Province, of which Lahore is the capital, he said.
A cadet who was on the parade ground at the time of the attack said the gunmen entered the school at about 8 a.m. from the rear. The attackers immediately threw grenades and opened fire, said Amir Farook, 22. “Most of the recruits were present on the parade ground,” Mr. Farook said as he waited for treatment at a Lahore hospital. Contradicting some reports, he said the gunmen were not wearing police uniforms.
Another recruit, Mushammad Raza, 22, said he heard blasts and then saw the attackers throw hand grenades. With a dozen other recruits, he clambered over a wall and crawled across a road before taking shelter in a house for half an hour. Rescue workers then took him to a hospital.
Rizwan Naseer, a doctor in charge of emergency operations, said at least 48 people were being treated at hospitals. Local media cited 90 wounded and said there could be many more casualties.Former police officials told television reporters that security around the school was light, allowing the gunmen to breach the walls easily.
Wounded cadets were carried out of the center on stretchers and some who had escaped by jumping over walls were shown weeping in television footage. The school was believed to have 850 cadets under training.
Waqar Gillani and Sabrina Tavernise reported from Manawan, Pakistan, and Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah contributed reporting from Islamabad.