March 30, 2009 / 4:15 PM / 10 years ago

Gunmen made stand in Pakistan barracks' top floor

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - Blood-soaked bedding was strewn with blackened body parts in a police barracks in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday after the last of the gunmen who stormed the building blew themselves up.

The attackers, armed with grenades and rifles, launched an assault on the police training center during a morning drill session, shooting down recruits on their dusty parade ground.

They held off police and soldiers for about eight hours before the last three gunmen made a stand on the top floor of the three-storey building. They blew themselves up as security forces launched a final assault, police said.

At least eight recruits were killed and 89 wounded. Four gunmen were killed and three were captured, the government said. Rehman Malik, the Interior Ministry head, said the Pakistani Taliban were suspected of carrying out the attack.

“I can’t tell you what I saw and what kind of terror I went through,” 19-year-old recruit Zahid Usman told his mother by mobile phone shortly after the violence ended.

“They were not human beings. They were not Muslims, they were evil,” a sobbing Usman said.

Exhausted-looking young policemen milled about greeting fellow recruits with hugs of relief and handshakes.

In the barracks, on the top floor, police placed two AK-47 rifles, blackened and twisted out of shape by the final blast, on top of steel trunks that each recruit keeps at the foot of his sleeping space.

Next to the guns were a couple of twisted magazines, one still containing bullets. Several bars of chocolates lay on a nearby trunk.

The blades of the room’s fans were bent upwards by the blasts, and the ceiling and walls were splattered with blood.

Part of a body, including a chest and arm, lay on a recruit’s mat and blankets. Flies swarmed over human flesh.

“KILL THEM”

Policeman Mohammad Akram spent hours huddled in a laundry room with about 20 recruits.

“I was going to have a wash and just as I stepped out and started heading toward the bathrooms, I heard two blasts. Then three gunmen jumped over the wall and started firing,” Akram said.

“Some recruits fell to the ground wounded, others started running. I went into the laundry hall and locked the door. There were about 20 of us in there, lying on the floor. They banged on the door and tried to break in but God saved us,” he said.

Outside the back of the bullet-pocked building broken glass littered the ground. Someone spotted a severed finger in the dust and a policeman rushed over to wrap it in plastic and take it away.

Chief drill instructor Nazir Ahmed Chahal led a crowd of recruits in chants of defiance, calling the attackers dogs.

“By the grace of God, our morale is still high. We can protect our country,” he shouted while scores of his trainees responded with shouts of “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest).

Some policemen fired their rifles into the air in celebration.

“It’s been a bad day for us but we’re determined to fight the terrorists, to kill them,” said police drill instructor Shafqat Nabi.

Additional reporting by Kamran Haider; editing by Robert Woodward

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