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More Than 60 Killed In Attack On Police Academy In Quetta, Pakistan


We begin in Pakistan. A terrorist attack last night has put people on edge there. A handful of militants with suicide belts and Kalashnikovs struck a police academy, killing more than 60 people. Most of the victims were young police trainees. The Islamic State is claiming responsibility. NPR's Philip Reeves has more.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: The attackers targeted police cadets. Their victims were asleep when the gunman barged into their dormitory and opened fire. The cadets had no weapons and nowhere to go. Some hid under their beds. Others jumped out of the window or from the roof. This happened in the city of Quetta.

Some five hours elapse before the security forces had the situation under control and the gunmen were dead. So by then were dozens of young men from across Pakistan.

NIAMATULLAH GICHKI: These poor people were recruited just recently. Just six months clear, seven months they were recruited. They were under training.

REEVES: Dr. Niamatullah Gichki, retired head of a medical college, has lived in Quetta since the '70s. He says some of the cadets came from his district.

GICHKI: They wanted to earn something for their families. So once they died, their families are dead also because there is nothing to support their families generally speaking. So we are pained. We feel the pain.

REEVES: Quetta is in the frontline of many of South Asia's conflicts. It's close to Iran and Afghanistan. Leaders of the Afghan Taliban are based there, the city's capital of Balochistan Province, where Baloch separatists are waging a stubborn war against the government.

The city has seen an awful lot of bloodshed. In August, 70 people were killed in a hospital bombing. Sectarian Sunni groups regularly massacre Shiites there. Militants in Quetta come in many guises.

ZAHID HUSSEIN: It's a very dangerous situation, very difficult for any intelligence agency to keep track on them. Quetta has become a center for all kind of these groups.

REEVES: If the Islamic State really did this, security analyst Zahid Hussein, author of several books about Pakistan, says he's not surprised.

HUSSEIN: It's very clear that the Islamic State has started taking root in Pakistan. They do not have a formal structure, organizational structure, but lots of Pakistani militant groups are attracted to it.

REEVES: Khair Mohammed has lived in Quetta all his life and says people there are worrying about security and especially about their kids at school.

KHAIR MOHAMMED: Because these are the very vulnerable targets, so we must be concerned about that. And we have to take serious action to protect our kids from these kind of incidents.

REEVES: Pakistan's government's under even more pressure now to find new ways to eradicate militancy. It's often accused, though, of using militants as proxies in the region. Attacks within Pakistan have dropped following a huge operation by the army against the Pakistani Taliban in the mountains bordering Afghanistan. There'll now be demands for a wider military crackdown. Zahid Hussein says that won't work on its own. Don't forget, he says, that the militants have extensive networks and a constant supply of recruits.

HUSSEIN: So basically unless you have a comprehensive policy to deal with that and to stop the supply of militants, you cannot deal with the problem of terrorism in this country.

REEVES: And a constant supply of recruits. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
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