QUETTA -- The toll of a deadly terrorist attack on a police training centre in Quetta has reached 65 lives, and all three attackers have been killed by security forces.
"Unknown militants [October 24] shot two guards at the main gate to the Balochistan Police Training College before entering the compound and targeting the hostel [dormitory], where more than 750 police cadets were housed," Muhammad Ajmal Kasi, a senior police officer at the college, told Pakistan Forward. "They fired at the heads of all our [sleeping] cadets, and the gunfire between security forces and militants continued for more than four hours. Our cadets were unarmed, and therefore they were not able to respond the attack."
"Under the command of the army, forces conducted a complete search of the sprawling police training centre," Balochistan Home and Tribal Affairs Minister Mir Sarfraz Bugti told Pakistan Forward. "They cleared the entire compound of militants."
"We have solid evidence that this cowardly attack was carried out by militants based in Afghanistan," he said, adding that "we have intercepted communications that confirmed that the attackers were in contact with their handlers based in Afghanistan".
The "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) claimed responsibility, according to Dawn.
"This attack on the Police Training College in Quetta was the third attack on the college -- in 2006 and 2008, militants fired rockets at the college," Ahmed Gharsheen, superintendent of the Quetta security branch, told Pakistan Forward. "Most of the casualties were identified as police cadets and personnel of other security agencies. An army captain, Roohullah of Shabqadar District, was among the slain personnel."
"All the bodies of the cadets were brought to police headquarters, where their joint funeral prayer was offered today," he said. "The bodies of the slain cadets were dispatched to their home districts."
"The Balochistan government announces three days of mourning," provincial government spokesman Anwar ul Haq Kakar said in a statement released in Quetta. "Security in the provincial government has gone on high alert."
"We strongly condemn the cowardly attack on our innocent recruits; these attacks can't derail our resolve against militancy in the region," Kakar said.
"Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif has also announced gallantry awards for Capt. Roohullah and Naib Subedar Muhammad Ali for their valiant action during the counter-terrorism operations at the Police Training College in Quetta," Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement issued in Quetta. "Having neutralised one suicide bomber, they cornered the second bomber, helping a large number of police recruits escape...Capt. Roohullah has been awarded the Tamgha-i-Jurat and Naib Subedar Muhammad Ali has been awarded the Tamgha-i-Basalat."
Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif also strongly condemned the attack.
In a high-level meeting in Quetta, Nawaz Sharif expressed concern over the attack and said terrorists would not accomplish their goals by spreading terror in the region. He directed all relevant authorities to ensure the cadets' safety and security with complete medical care.
Balochistan Assembly opposition leader Maulana Abdul Wasay denounced the attack too, saying that the perpetrators of such acts are enemies of peace and stability.
"The Pakistani nation is united against anti-peace elements; it will not allow its soil to be used for militant activities," he said, adding that the "government must ensure every possible step to foil the sordid designs of the enemies".
The Balochistan Traders' Union announced a strike on Wednesday province-wide to protest the attack on the training centre, Allahdad Tareen, a senior leader of the union, told Pakistan Forward.
"We strongly condemn the barbaric attack that took the lives of police cadets," he said. "The state must ensure a visionary strategy for the security of security personnel."
Other leaders denouncing the attack included Afghan government CEO Abdullah Abdullah. "I offer sympathies & condolences to families & friends of those killed in the #QuettaAttack. #Afghans stand with the people of #Pak", he tweeted.