Several killed in police training school siege

Gunmen stormed into a police academy in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, killing several people, according to police. The death toll is still unclear. Gunfire could be heard from the premises, according to local media reports.


REUTERS - Militants holed up in a police training centre in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday after storming the complex and killing cadets on a parade ground, with estimates of the dead ranging up to 20.

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said 52 police were wounded in the attack but gave no word on the number killed.

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer said authorities had reports of four people confirmed killed, although television news channels put the number of dead at 20.

The latest brazen attack will heighten fears about mounting insecurity in nuclear-armed Pakistan. The assault came less than a month after gunmen attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team in Lahore, killing six police guards and a bus driver. Those gunmen escaped.

One wounded policeman described how the attackers struck while police recruits were going through their regular morning drill on the parade ground.

"A grenade hit the platoon next to ours ... then there was continuous firing for about 20 minutes," the policeman told reporters gathered round his hospital bed.

"A man in light-coloured clothes -- I think they were white -- stood in front of us, firing at us. They wanted to do as much damage as possible."

Paramilitary troops laid siege to the training centre, firing from rooftops of surrounding buildings, while the gunmen returned fire and threw grenades to keep the police at bay.

"Our elite squad has surrounded the area. God willing, now we will get into the building," Mushtaq Sukhera, a senior police official, told reporters at the scene.

Television channels later showed police detaining a suspected attacker. Footage showed police kicking the bearded man on the ground before leading him through a throng of journalists.

Governor Taseer said up to 10 gunmen carried out the assault, although one wounded policeman told Geo News channel there were up to 20 gunmen in the building. It was unclear if any police were being held hostage.

The training centre is on the outskirts of the city, on the road to the nearby border with India.

"It's a continuation of the series of attacks carried out by the terrorists," Taseer told journalists, adding a curfew has been imposed in the area.

Islamist militants have launched a campaign of violence to destabilise the Muslim nation of 170 million people, and the one-year-old civilian government's ability to meet the challenge.

U.S. President Barack Obama made support for President Asif Ali Zardari's government a centrepiece of a review of policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan that was announced on Friday, and which made annihilation of al Qaeda the United States' principle objective.

Despite the attack in Lahore, Pakistani stocks and the rupee firmed in early trade as investors registered relief that a recent political crisis had subsided.

Attacked during morning drill

Television channels said several hundred trainees were at the centre when the attackers, some dressed as policemen, struck. Taseer said some were in civilian clothes and wore masks.

One witness told Reuters the gunmen attacked in groups of three or four from all sides, and lobbed grenades before opening sweeping fire on cadets assembled on the parade ground.

Another wounded policeman recounted how he escaped when the gunmen burst into a room and began firing indiscriminately.

"I jumped from the second floor," he said. "There were dead bodies all over the place."

One television station showed pictures of about a dozen police lying on the parade ground. Some appeared to be lifeless while others were crawling to cover.

An army helicopter circled overhead, and police and soldiers were seen carrying wounded to ambulances.

A police armoured personnel carrier (APC) earlier tried to enter the compound and an exchange of fire, including what appeared to be a grenade explosion, broke out, a Reuters photographer at the scene said. The APC then withdrew.

Militant violence has surged in Pakistan since mid-2007, with attacks on security forces and government and Western targets.

While there have been attacks in all Pakistan's big cities, most violence has been in the northwest, near the Afghan border.

On Monday, three soldiers were killed and four wounded when a military vehicle hit a roadside bomb in the North Waziristan tribal region, officials said.

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