ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Militants raided a hostel in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore early Thursday and killed nine police officers, the second attack in a week against security forces as authorities brace for a wave of violence following the reopening of NATO supply routes through the country.
Ten gunmen stormed the hostel shortly after midnight while the officers were sleeping, said Habibur Rehman, police chief for Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. The gunmen arrived in a car and three motorcycles and were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, pistols and hand grenades.
The officers were undergoing training to work at jails in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in the country’s volatile northwest. There were about 30 officers in the building at the time of the attack.
“It was continuous firing for about 10 to 15 minutes,” one of the officers told a Pakistani television channel. He did not give his name. “After they left, we came outside and saw all the dead bodies.”
The attack came three days after gunmen killed eight people at a Pakistani army camp near the eastern Punjab city of Gujrat. The military had set up the camp to recover the body of a pilot believed killed when his helicopter crashed into the Chenab River on May 23. Seven of the dead were soldiers, while the eighth was a policeman who tried to intervene, authorities said.
The two attacks have raised fears of increasing retaliatory acts of terror by the Pakistani Taliban, which had warned the government against allowing NATO to again use Pakistan as a transit country for supply convoys bound for Afghanistan. The supply routes were closed after U.S. airstrikes last November mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border.
Pakistan’s decision to reopen the routes last week, reached after long and intense negotiations with the U.S., ended a seven-month freeze in relations between Washington and Islamabad.
According to news agencies, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Lahore as well as the killings near Gujrat.
The militants “had threatened to do this if NATO supply routes were reopened,” said Rehman, the Punjab police chief. “I think this is an offshoot of that. We are putting security personnel on high alert.”
Rehman added that police were investigating whether the assailants in the Lahore raid were also involved in the attack near Gujrat.
Lahore was hit with a series of suicide bombings and terror attacks in 2009 and 2010, carried out mostly by Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants. Since the end of 2010, however, the city of 11 million has been relatively free from militant violence.
-- Alex Rodriguez and Nasir Khan