LAHORE: Masked gunmen stormed Manawan police academy Monday, unleashing a fierce firefight that has left at least 26 dead in an echo of the commando-style assault on Sri Lanka’s cricket team.
Armed with grenades and assault rifles, and some of them dressed in police uniform, the attackers shot their way into the camp near Lahore and were continuing to trade fire six hours later with security forces.
Bodies of policemen were lying face down on the parade ground as rescuers carried out casualties on sheets and gunfire rattled round the compound at Manawan.
Paramilitary soldiers, armed and wearing flak jackets and helmets, opened fire and fanned out around the perimeter of the site, which was surrounded by scores of police cars and armoured vehicles, Geo news reported. People gathered outside the centre were boosting the morale of the operation forces engaged in carrying out the operation against terrorists.
“The number of killed is at least 26,” police officials told journalists, adding that around 90 were rushed to hospital. The security officials said the number of deaths could rise due to the crossfire. There were also television reports of hostages being taken, but that could not be confirmed.
“There were three or four back-to-back blasts from hand grenades and rocket launchers,” policeman Mohammad Riaz told Geo news from inside a room where he was barricaded with others.
“They directly targeted us. Suddenly there were bodies all around me,” one injured policeman told Geo news from his hospital bed.
Eyewitnesses said that half the assailants were in police uniform and half in civilian clothing. They were armed with hand grenades and rifles, and killed security guards at a rear entrance to get in.
Interior ministry chief Rehman Malik suggested homegrown terror movements were responsible.
“The nation knows these terrorist organisations,” he told Geo news, adding: “The question is — from where they are getting grenades, guns and rocket launchers in such a large number?”
Indian officials condemned the latest attack, saying it threatened security across the region and that its military was on alert for any “spillover.”
“We are deeply concerned. We condemn these terror attacks, we condemn all terror attacks and we offer our sympathies to the government and the people of Pakistan,” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told reporters.