Nine Pakistani police cadets were killed yesterday by Taliban fighters who stormed into their house, chanted ‘God is Great’ and then opened fire on them.
It was the second such attack on security forces in the country’s Punjab province in four days and police have suggested the same fighters may be involved.
Yesterday’s dawn attack took place at a housing compound in the city of Lahore where the young police cadets were undergoing training to become prison guards. Around 30 cadets from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province in the north-west were renting a building in the Ichhra neighbourhood, which was targeted by about 10 heavily armed militants.
One survivor told the Agence France-Presse from his hospital bed that staff jumped onto the roof tops of neighbouring houses to escape as the gunmen opened fire. “About 15 of us were sleeping on the roof and some were offering prayers when gunfire started downstairs. Some of my colleagues who went down to see what was happening were killed or wounded,” said 23-year-old Mohammad Rizwan Shah. “I jumped over to the house next door to save my life and fractured my arm. Others too jumped walls and into neighbouring houses.”
Reports said the Taliban subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had been carried out in revenge for the mistreatment and torture of militant prisoners by jail staff in KPK province. One Taliban spokesman told reporters that fighters had been planning the attack for some time and that more such assaults would follow.
The assaults this week have raised concerns that a fresh wave of violence may be unleashed on the country’s heartland province where extremists groups have steadily taken hold. On Monday, gunmen killed six soldiers and a policeman at a riverside military encampment located at Gujrat, about 60 miles north of Lahore. The Pakistani Taliban also claimed responsibility for that incident.
Elements of the Taliban have regularly launched attacks against government and military targets in recent years, demanding that the country break its links with the US and introduce Islamic law. The attacks gathered pace after the summer of 2007 when President Pervez Musharraf ordered troops to clear the Red Mosque in Islamabad of extremists. In recent days, tensions have been high among several extremists groups since Pakistan decided last week to re-open the Nato supply route into Afghanistan, following a seven-month blockade.
Ayesha Siddiqa, an Islamabad-based analyst and the author of Military Inc, said that while there was concern about the two attacks, people in the areas where they took place had little option but to try and go about their lives. She said: “This is not a place where people can hide away.”