Officers Taken Hostage in Training Compound in Pakistan

Gunmen Storm Police Training Compound in Pakistan

By Barry Newhouse

Islamabad, Pakistan (RPRN)March 30, 2009 -Gunmen in Pakistan have stormed a police training center outside the eastern city, Lahore, taking scores of officers hostage. Military and civilian security forces have surrounded the facility, where the hours-long standoff continues.

Television frame grab from NDTVThis television frame grab from NDTV shows a Pakistani special comando taking cover in Lahore after gunmen attacked a police training school, 30 Mar 2009

Live television footage shows military and civilian security forces taking up positions around the training facility grounds. Explosions and gunfire can be heard coming from inside the compound.

It is unclear how many attackers took part in the assault, how many people have been wounded or killed and how many people remain captive.

Television footage of the facility’s parade ground showed several bodies lying motionless. Some of the wounded who fled the compound have been evacuated by paramedics.

One officer told local reporters that the attack started about 7:30 in the morning, when gunmen threw grenades at security forces training outside.

He says one man, wearing civilian clothes, was carrying three guns and was shooting at everyone he saw. He says the man chased him and others into a nearby building, but – instead of pursuing them – he began shooting recruits still sleeping in their beds.

The siege comes less than a month after some 12 gunmen attacked Sri Lanka’s cricket team in nearby downtown Lahore, killing several police and wounding some players and a coach. All of the gunmen remain at large.

Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, has been spared much of the violence found in western areas of the country, in recent years. But several high-profile attacks have taken place, including last year’s bombing at the Naval War College. Punjab province is also where several large maddrassas with links to militant groups are located.

The senior official in the Interior Ministry, Rehman Malik, told a private Pakistani television network that the number of militant groups in Pakistan has grown to such an extent that the government is finding it difficult to keep track of them.

He says, in the last six or seven years, the number of jihadi groups has expanded so greatly that it is taking a while to find out who these people are and how many fighters have joined their ranks.

He says intelligence indicates some of the militants have gained experience training and fighting in Afghanistan.

Malik also defended the efforts of Lahore’s police, who recently came under fierce criticism after failing to kill or capture any of the attackers involved in the assault on the Sri Lankan cricket team.

He says Pakistan has never trained security forces to fight terrorists. He says that is why the president has proposed adding 25,000 police personnel to each of the country’s four provinces.