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It was meant to be a new beginning for Naqeebullah Achakzai; with his wedding a month away the 25-year-old police cadet was carrying keys to his bedroom in his pocket. But fate had something else in store for the young man: the Oct 24 militant attack on Quetta’s Police Training College cut short his life and dreams.

Naqeebullah was one of 62 police cadets and two military officers killed by heavily armed militants during the coordinated attack.

Before he was called back to Quetta, he was in his hometown of Chaman, Saadullah Achakzai, Naqeebullah’s elder brother, told Dawn. “He was decorating his room for the wedding when he received the call from the training school,” Saadullah said. He added, “The place where Naqeebullah’s fateha is taking place today was meant to be the venue for his wedding ceremony.”

Reliving the horror

Naqeebullah’s tragic story is just one of many chilling accounts that have emerged as survivors of the attack recover from their injuries.

Afros Khan, a 22-year-old injured cadet, narrates how the heavily armed terrorists pretended to be soldiers while entering the barracks. He described how they lobbed hand grenades from windows, before entering the premises.

“They killed our security guard and then started firing from windows in our barrack,” Lal Ahmed, another young cadet from Balochistan’s Panjgur district, said.

The cadets were unarmed. As per standard operation procedure, they cannot carry weapons during training inside the centre. “We can only practice on with weapons at a firing range,” Mr Ahmed explained.

“We helplessly watched our friends being brutally killed,” he said, his voice cracking as he recalled the atrocity.

Most cadets hid behind beds when the firing started. “I cannot forget the cries of my beloved friends as they died,” Mr Khan said.

The attackers were dressed in camouflage and had covered their faces during the attack. “We could not differentiate between the attackers and our own colleagues,” Feroz Saqib Baloch, a 26-year-old cadet, said.

One of the attackers stormed Mr Baloch’s barrack and was hiding behind the charpoy where he blew himself up when the army commandos entered. The military rescued more than 250 police cadets who had been held hostage by the attackers for more than four hours. Army helicopters flew to the training centre to ensure swift recovery of the hostages.

Currently 12 injured police cadets are admitted at the Civil Hospital, nine at Bolan Medical Complex Hospital and the rest are either being treated at the Combined Military Hospital or have been referred to Karachi for treatment.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2016