Terrorist Attack on Police Academy in Pakistan Leaves 61 Dead

Yuhan Lin - 1A ECE
Posted on: November 6, 2016

On Monday, October 24, cadets residing in a police academy in Quetta, Pakistan, woke to the sound of gunfire and explosions during the onset of a violent attack that would leave at least 61 dead and 117 injured. Militants entered the academy’s dormitories at around 11 PM local time and opened fire on hundreds of cadets. The attackers also lobbed grenades into rooms where cadets were sleeping, and two suicide vests were detonated. Security quickly responded to the altercation with a large scale paramilitary operation that lasted into early Tuesday, rescuing more than 260 police cadets who were held hostage and killing one attacker.

The attack was claimed by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) armed group, a Sunni organization that primarily targets security personnel and the Shia minority in Pakistan. It was outlawed by the government of Pakistan in 2001, and designated as a terrorist group by the US State Department two years later. LeJ has since attained a notorious reputation for launching sectarian attacks, particularly in the Balochistan province where the police academy is located. These include a suicide bombing in a Quetta market that left 83 dead in 2013, and a bombing of a bus carrying Shia pilgrims that killed over twenty in 2014. The latest attack on the police academy, however, comes as a surprise in light of the recent crackdown launched by Pakistani authorities against LeJ, which concluded with the killing of the group’s leader, Malik Ishaq, in a shootout early last year. The fact that the attack occurred so soon afterwards attests to LeJ’s ability to recover from heavy blows, as well as the prominence of terrorism in the region in general.

As for the survivors, the attack proved to be a harrowing experience. The gunmen entered the dormitories while the cadets were still asleep and unarmed. One anonymous cadet, who appeared shaken, described his experience in visceral detail. “They just barged in and started firing point blank. We ran for cover, screaming. We were just trying to escape and save ourselves,” the cadet told reporters during a segment recorded live on Pakistani television. Other survivor stories include accounts of grenades landing inside the living quarters, and survivors who hid under beds and jumped out the windows to save themselves. Despite all this, however, the ultimate goal of the attack was left unachieved. Although they were shaken, the survivors refused to be submissive. The spirit of solidarity and defiance against the use of violence and terror against the innocent as a tool of intimidation was best encapsulated in the words of survivor Safar Khan, who spoke with CNN after the incident.

“We will not bow before terrorists.”