Pakistan launches operation after militants storm police academy

At least 21 people have so far been injured, meanwhile, with the toll feared to rise.

AFP| Updated: Oct 25, 2016, 04:14 AM IST
Pakistan launches operation after militants storm police academy

Pakistani troops backed by helicopters have launched a major operation against militants who stormed a police academy in the country`s restive southwest late Monday, rescuing hundreds of trapped cadets and killing two attackers, officials said. 
At least 21 people have so far been injured, meanwhile, with the toll feared to rise.
The attack on the Balochistan Police College, located 20 kilometres east of Quetta city centre, began at around 11:30 pm (1830 GMT), with gunfire continuing to ring out from the site hours later.
According to a military statement "five to six" militants were involved in the attack, with a clearing operation now underway.
"At least 21 people have been injured in the attack," Anwar Kakar, the provincial government spokesman said, while provincial health minister Noor ul Haq Baloch placed the figure at 28 -- most of them cadets.
Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti, the provincial home minister, later tweeted "2 terrorist killed" and "200 plus rescued Alhamdo lillha (by God`s grace)".
It was not immediately clear how many cadets were in the building at the time of the attack. Bugti said it normally housed around 700 but "recently there was a batch which graduated so I can`t say how many there are now".
As the battle to retake the academy continued, police and civil administration officials at the site told AFP they had heard three blasts, one particularly loud. 
The area was plunged into darkness when the operation was launched while security personnel created a cordon and ambulances zoomed in and out, taking the injured to hospitals. Military helicopters meanwhile circled overhead.
A man who identified himself as a police cadet told reporters: "I saw three men in camouflage whose faces were hidden carrying Kalashnikovs. They started firing and entered the dormitory but I managed to escape over a wall."No group has yet claimed responsibility but Baloch separatists demanding greater autonomy of the mineral rich but desperately poor region have been waging an on-off insurgency for decades, and the province is also riven by sectarian strife and Islamist violence.
The attack came a day after separatist gunmen for the Baloch Liberation Army on a motorcycle shot dead two coast guards and a civilian and wounded a shopkeeper in a remote southwest coastal town in the same province.
In August, a suicide bombing at a Quetta hospital claimed by the Islamic State group and the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban killed 73 people, including many of the city`s lawyer community who had gone there to mourn the fatal shooting of a colleague.
Balochistan is also a key region for China`s ambitious $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project linking its western province of Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea via Pakistan.
Security problems have mired CPEC in the past with numerous separatist attacks, but China has said it is confident the Pakistani military is in control. 
The army has repeatedly been accused by international rights groups of abuses in Balochistan.