With less than a week before the Muslim celebration marking the end of Ramadan, no one there seemed to anticipate that
At least 60 people have been killed in an attack on a police training centre in the city of Quetta in Balochistan province, Pakistani officials say.
The announcement on Tuesday came at the end of a military counter-operation.
About 200 trainees were stationed at the facility when the attack occurred late on Monday, officials said, and some were taken hostage during the attack, which lasted five hours.
Most of the dead were police cadets.
Mir Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti, home minister of Balochistan, said early on Tuesday that five to six armed men attacked a dormitory inside the training facility while cadets rested and slept.
More than a hundred people were injured, he said. The death toll could rise as many cadets were seriously injured.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the attack. The group, which has been outlawed by the government, has been involved in past attacks on security forces.
“Over the past few years LeJ has been targeted by the military, especially in Punjab province where its leadership was eliminated. And this attack surprised many that it still survives in some form,” writer and columnist Raza Rumi said.
An emergency was declared in all government hospitals of the provincial capital of Balochistan, with the injured shifted to the Civil Hospital Quetta and the Bolan Medical Complex.
Witnesses reported hearing at least three explosions leading up to the raid. Sources told Al Jazeera that it took at least 30 minutes before Pakistani authorities responded to the assault.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Kamal Hyder said the police training centre had come under attack in the past, with rockets fired towards it in 2006 and 2008.
Monday’s assault came just hours after armed men shot and killed two customs officers and wounded a third near the town of Surab, about 145km south of Quetta.
The customs officers were targeted by gunmen riding on a motorcycle, said Zainullah Baloch, a spokesman for the local police. Baloch said two officers died on the spot and the injured one was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Earlier on Monday, two assailants on a motorcycle killed a police intelligence officer in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to Khalid Khan, a local police officer.
The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. The group’s spokesman, Muhammad Khurasani, said in a statement that the shooters returned to their hideout after the attack.
Pakistan has carried out military operations against armed groups in tribal areas near Afghanistan and in cities across Pakistan, but the fighters are still capable of staging regular attacks.