Pakistani authorities suspect the Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi could be behind the recent terror attack that killed up to 59 police trainees in Quetta, Balochistan. Citing initial reports, officials say the attackers, all of them suicide bombers, were receiving orders from their handlers in Afghanistan as they were mounting the attack.

Security forces have cleared the area at the Balochistan Police College in Quetta, the capital of the restive Balochistan province, which is located at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. On Monday (24 October), three heavily armed assailants stormed the facility, which hosted close to 700 cadets at the time of the attack, randomly sprayed bullets on the trainees at about 9.30pm. The militants wore suicide vests – while two blew themselves up, the third one was shot dead by security personnel. Earlier reports suggest there were five or six Islamists but it was later corrected to three.

A brief hostage situation, sparking heavy gunfire between the security forces and the militants, broke out after the attack. The Pakistani army, however, is reported to have taken quick control of the situation. Over 100 people have been injured in the attack and are being treated at government hospitals such as Civil Hospital and CMH Quetta. Security has been beefed up at government medical facilities, especially at CMH Quetta as the hospital was attacked on 8 August.

The military has announced an end to the counter-terror operation following a three-hour sweep. Helicopters were swirling above the area, providing aerial cover.

At the press conference, Inspector General Frontier Corps (FC) said: "There were three terrorists and all of them were wearing suicide vests," adding that they were in constant touch with their Afghanistan handlers during the onslaught. "No recruit sustained critical wounds; however, some military personnel who conducted the operation received critical wounds."

Balochistan's Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti has also confirmed that the clearance operation is officially over and the area is secure.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, affiliated with both the al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban in the past, has launched multiple terror attacks in the Afghan-Pakistan border previously. Islamist militants are known to target security forces in the area for more than a decade and the same training college was attacked in 2006 and 2008 as well.

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