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Spate of Attacks Leaves 27 dead, 30 injured in Lahore
LAHORE - Teams of gunmen attacked three security sites on Thursday in Lahore, killing a total of 27 people and leaving at least 30 injured.
One of the attacks, on the Elite Police Academy on Bedian Road, lasted into Thursday afternoon before security forces killed the five attackers and freed a family they were holding hostage, police said.
The assaults paralysed the cultural capital of the country, showing the militants are highly organised and able to carry out sophisticated, coordinated strikes against heavily fortified facilities despite stepped up security across the country.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, though suspicion fell on the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan who have claimed other recent strikes. The attacks on Thursday also were the latest to underscore the growing threat to Punjab.
‘The enemy has started a guerrilla war,' Interior Minister Rehman Malik said. ‘The whole nation should be united against these handful of terrorists, and God willing we will defeat them.'
The wave of violence halted activity in Lahore. All government offices were ordered shut, the roads were nearly empty, major markets did not open and stores that had been open pulled down their shutters.
The violence began just after 9 a.m. when a group of gunmen attacked a building housing the Federal Investigation Agency, a law enforcement branch that deals with matters ranging from immigration to terrorism.
‘We are under attack,' said Mohammad Riaz, an FIA employee reached inside the building via phone by The Associated Press during the assault. ‘I can see two people hit, but I do not know who they are.'
The FIA building was the target of a suicide truck bomb in March 2008 that killed 24 people and wounded more than 100.
Thursday's attack lasted about one-and-a-half hours and ended with the death of two attackers, four government employees and a bystander, senior government official Sajjad Bhutta said. Senior police official Chaudhry Shafiq said one of the dead wore a jacket bearing explosives.
Soon after that assault began, a second band of gunmen raided a police training school in Manawan on the outskirts of the city in a brief attack that killed five police officers and four militants, according to DawnNews. One of the gunmen was killed by police at the compound and the other three blew themselves up.
The facility was hit earlier this year in an attack that sparked an eight-hour standoff with the army that left 12 people dead.
A third team of at least eight gunmen scaled the back wall of an elite police commando training centre on Bedian Road, not far from the airport and attacked the facility, Lahore police chief Pervez Rathore said. Senior police official Malik Iqbal said at least one police constable was killed there.
Lt. Gen. Shafqat Ahmad said five attackers were slain in a gun battle and suicide blasts in the facility, and Shafiq said security forces freed a family that was being held hostage at the compound.
Seven people were injured in the Bedian attack. Out of the 13 terrorists involved, three were females, said an official.
Television footage showed helicopters in the air over one of the police facilities and paramilitary forces with rifles and bulletproof vests taking cover behind trees outside a wall surrounding the compound. Rana Sanaullah, provincial law minister of Punjab province, said police were trying to take some of the attackers alive so they could get information from them about their militant networks.