Quetta shuts down as it mourns cadets killed at police academy
QUETTA // The city of Quetta was completely shut down on Wednesday following a militant rampage at a police academy the day before as families buried 60 police cadets and an army officer killed in the attack.
The brazen assault saw troops battle the attackers for four hours before the siege was over.
Unarmed cadets and police trainees – many of whom were asleep in their dorms when the attack started – jumped from windows and rooftops, to flee for their lives. It was one of the deadliest attacks targeting Pakistani security forces in recent years.
Quetta hospitals were still treating 123 wounded from the attack.
In conflicting claims, an ISIL affiliate and a Taliban splinter group both said they were behind the attack in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.
But Pakistani officials later said they intercepted communication between the attackers and their purported handlers across the border in Afghanistan, blaming an Al Qaeda and Taliban-linked group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al Almi, for the assault.
Quetta trade leader, Abdur Rahim Kakar, said all businesses and offices were closed in the city on Wednesday, while market places were deserted.
Law offices and business communities elsewhere in some Pakistani cities also closed doors in solidarity. Pakistan’s flag was lowered at half-mast at government buildings and other official institutions.
Mr Kakar said there were not enough ambulances and funeral vehicles to transport all the bodies home, so some families were forced to take away their dead on top of passenger vans.
Naseer Khan Tareen, a merchant, said the government was not doing enough to prevent large militant attacks, citing an August suicide bombing that killed more than 70 at a gathering of lawyers on the grounds of a government-run hospital in Quetta.
“We had an incident hardly three months ago where 70 lawyers were killed and yet we have another one,” he said. Three attackers wearing suicide vests had stormed the academy – two blew themselves up with explosive vests and the third was killed by army gunfire.
ISIL’s media arm, the Arabic-language Aamaq news agency, had posted photographs of the alleged bombers to support its claim of responsibility.
TV footage from the academy, located on Quetta’s outskirts, showed a wide dark crater, blackened walls, shattered glass and window frames scorched from flames. Shoes of the victims were strewn about on the grounds
Within hours after the attack, which began at 11.30pm on Monday, criticism mounted against the authorities for leaving the cadets at the academy vulnerable and unprotected.
Abdul Wali, who lost his brother in the August attack, said he wanted to invite the government to come to Quetta and see the pain he and others like him have gone through.
“We’re tired of lifting dead bodies,” he sighed.
* Associated Press