When the shooting and explosions erupted at a police academy in eastern Pakistan, officer Mohammad Riaz barricaded himself in a room with 11 others — and waited for help to arrive.
“There were three or four back-to-back blasts from hand grenades and rocket launchers,” Riaz shouted, in a dramatic call to private Aaj television station from inside the room with officers and cadets.
“When the firing started, 12 of us locked ourselves in a room. We can’t get out because there is intense firing.”
The ordinarily peaceful commuter belt, about 25 kilometres outside Lahore, was turned into a war zone with pitched battles between soldiers and paramilitary forces and the gunmen holed up inside.
“There were around 750 people who were getting training. These are new recruits, who were recruited less than a month ago. They weren’t issued any guns because they were new,” said Riaz.
Television footage showed bodies of policemen lying face down on the parade ground as rescuers carried out casualties on sheets under heavy gunfire.
A policeman, stripped of his shirt and clutching a bullet wound on his left arm that was gushing blood, walked out of the training ground and was immediately hurried into an ambulance that screeched away to hospital.
Survivors told of their horror after attackers opened fire indiscriminately in a bid to cause maximum carnage among hundreds of cadets. “First a hand grenade came over the wall. Then seven to eight attackers came inside and started firing indiscriminately,” a police cadet told private Geo television from his hospital bed, without giving his name.
“One was wearing white dress and another fired from the stage,” he said.
“It seemed they wanted maximum loss of life and they fired at anything which moved. I kept crawling and a rescue vehicle took me away.
“The boundary wall is around six feet high and there were about 800 or 900 personnel in the school,” the police cadet said.
“The attackers started firing at around 7:20 am. They directly targeted us. Suddenly there were bodies all around me,” another injured policeman told Geo from his hospital bed, also without giving his name.
Armed soldiers and paramilitary troops wearing helmets and bullet-proof vests encircled the camp and stormed inside as a military helicopter landed inside the compound, said an AFP reporter.
“There are 10 to 12 terrorists — half of them wearing police uniform and half of them in plain clothes, wearing sports kit. They are carrying bags on their shoulders,” said police official Amjad Ahmad. The assailants killed security guards at the rear entrance and stormed into the training ground, he said.