Lahore: The chief of Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, said on Tuesday his group had carried out an attack on a police academy in the eastern city of Lahore the previous day.
Eight cadets were killed and scores wounded in the brazen assault that came less than a month after a dozen gunmen attacked Sri Lanka’s cricket team in the city, killing six police guards and a bus driver.
Four terrorists were killed and three were arrested during an eight-hour long gunbattle with security forces in the police academy.
“Yes, we have carried out this attack. I will give details later,” Mehsud, an al Qaeda-linked leader based in the lawless Waziristan tribal region, told Reuters by telephone.
Mehsud leads the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or Movement of Taliban, Pakistan, a loose umbrella group of factions which has carried out attacks across the country, mainly in the northwest.
Pakistani Taliban also have links with Afghan Taliban and send fighters across the border to fight Western forces there.
Interior ministry chief Rehman Malik on Monday said the militants involved in Monday’s attack were believed to be fighters loyal to Mehsud and had come from his powerbase in south Waziristan, a sanctuary for al Qaeda and the Taliban militants.
Malik said one of the men captured was an Afghan who had arrived in Lahore 15 days earlier and had rented a house there.
Militant violence has surged in Pakistan since mid-2007, with attacks on security forces, government and Western targets, severely testing the year-old civilian government.
The Lahore attack came days after US President Barack Obama made support for Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s government a centrepiece of a security review on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The heavily armed militants rampaged through the sprawling police complex on the outskirts of Lahore, near the border with India, for eight hours before they were overpowered in a joint operation by the army, paramilitary rangers and a crack police squad.
Three of the militants blew themselves up during the final assault, and commandos rescued 10 police being held hostage inside the main academy building.
Malik said all the wounded taken to hospital were being screened to ensure no militants were hiding among them. Officials said 89 policemen were wounded.