Masked militants equipped with AK-47s and suicide vests stormed a police training facility in Pakistan on Monday night — slaughtering at least 48 people and wounding 75 more, officials said.
The attack unfolded on the Balochistan Police College in a suburban area of the provincial capital of Quetta, and first began at around 11:10 p.m. local time, according to police.
While no one immediately claimed responsibility, officials said the camo-clad extremists appeared to be in contact with handlers in Afghanistan.
At least three men were believed to have taken part in the assault, which lasted roughly five-hours.
Phone calls intercepted between them and their handlers suggest that they were working with the Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.
One of the men was killed by local security forces, while the other two died after detonating their explosive vests, officials said.
With roughly 200 to 250 recruits soundly asleep in their beds or resting, the militants marched inside the police training center — first attempting to access the dormitory that housed the trainees.
“They first targeted the watch tower sentry, and after exchanging fire killed him and were able to enter the academy grounds,” said Sarfaraz Bugti, the home minister of Balochistan province.
When the guards at the hostel refused to let the extremists inside the dorm, a gun battle ensued — and the militants were eventually forced to hunker down and take hostages.
“I saw three men in camouflage whose faces were hidden carrying Kalashnikovs,” a police cadet recalled to AFP. “They started firing and entered the dormitory but I managed to escape over a wall.”
Police and paramilitary forces proceeded to surround the building as cadets continued to scatter and take cover.
“[The attackers] were rushing toward our building firing shots so we rushed for safety toward the roof and jumped down in the back to save our lives,” recalled a police trainee, who spoke to Geo television.
During the five-hour counter-offensive, authorities cut off all power to the training center and used helicopters to keep tabs on the terrorists.
Officials said the commandos managed to shoot and kill one of the men before the other two blew themselves up. A Reuters photographer later claimed he saw police carrying out the body of a teenage boy — who was believed to be one of the attackers.
When the smoke cleared, at least 48 people had died during the assault and 75 others transported to local hospitals with gunshot wounds and various injuries sustained while attempting to escape the gunmen.
Nearly all of those injured were police officers, while two were paramilitary troops, according to the Associated Press.
Monday night’s attack came just hours after two gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed a pair of customs officers near the town of Surab, which is about 90 miles south of Quetta.
It was the third deadliest in Pakistan this year, and the worst since a suicide bomber killed 70 people at a hospital in Quetta in August.
With Post Wires