October 24, 2016: Hostage taking at Pakistani police college

Islamist terrorists took hostages at a police college in Pakistan in October 2016 and killed 60 cadets (another 100 were wounded).

Islamist terrorists took hostages at a police college in Pakistan in October 2016 and killed 60 cadets (another 100 were wounded).

QUETTA, PAKISTAN – Some terrorist attacks are so lethal that multiple groups claim responsibility or are seen to be behind it.

When you think of Pakistan and terrorism at the same time there are probably two main things that crop up. First is the fact that Al Qaeda (AQ) leader Usama bin Laden was discovered almost a decade after 9/11 holed up in Abbotabad, about 100 km almost due north of the capital of Islamabad. That he had been there for some time must have made a lot of folk, especially in the US, wonder what the Pakistanis knew about this and how long they had known about it.

The second thing is that country’s predilection to host terrorists who end up carrying out attacks in neighbouring India (the 2008 Mumbai massacre is a good example). Yes, India and Pakistan were once one big (un)happy family under British rule but you would be hard pressed to find anyone on either side of the border who feels good about the folks next door.

What may be less well known is that Pakistan has its own internal problem with terrorism of the Islamist variety. Much of this occurs in the southwestern area known as Balochistan (capital: Quetta). The area has been rife with attacks for decades carried out by a variety of actors., one of them being an Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate.

Sometimes a massacre occurs that is so deadly that multiple groups cannot help but claim responsibility. On this day in 2016 three terrorists wearing suicide bomb vests entered a police college in Quetta and took hostages. By the time the ‘rescue’ security operation had ended, all the terrorists were killed, but so were 60 cadets (and a further 100 were wounded). Hundreds of trainees were evacuated from the college as troops arrived on the scenes. Local media reported having heard at least three explosions.

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.

Cadet who witnessed the attack

Here is where it gets interesting. While the ISIS local gang said the action was theirs, local authorities pointed the finger at Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a major Islamist extremist group in Pakistan. Who, in the end, was responsible may never be fully determined. Terrorism is often a murky business after all.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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