ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan was reeling on Tuesday from a major terrorist attack: an overnight assault on a police training college in the southwest that officials said had killed at least 61 people, most of them cadets.
The attack, carried out by three militants wielding guns and explosives, also wounded 120 people at the college outside Quetta, the capital of the restive province of Baluchistan.
The militants struck late Monday and battled security forces for several hours before they were killed. Two detonated suicide vests, and the third was shot, said Mir Sarfraz Bugti, a provincial minister.
The Amaq news agency, which acts as a news wire for the Islamic State, posted a picture of three men holding guns and wearing ammunition vests who it said were the attackers. The Islamic State had also claimed responsibility for the last major attack in the Quetta area, an August suicide bombing at a hospital in the city that killed dozens of lawyers.
However, Pakistani officials had earlier blamed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned militant group affiliated with the Taliban, for the assault on the police college. After the Islamic State claimed responsibility, a senior security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media, said the Islamic State had “outsourced” the attack to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The assault on the college showed that extremist groups remain a serious threat for the Pakistani military and security forces, which have claimed great success against militants in recent years. As the country reeled Tuesday from the latest attack, security forces were put on high alert across Pakistan, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, said they would visit Quetta.
Baluchistan is home to a decades-old separatist insurgency, and Taliban militants maintain a presence in Quetta and many other parts of the province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, a spokesman for the Baluchistan government, blamed Afghanistan for the attack on the police college.
“All such attacks have been managed from across the border in Afghanistan,” Mr. Kakar said. “Hostile intelligence agencies of neighboring countries are directly responsible for terrorism in Pakistan.”
Mr. Kakar said that some of the wounded were in critical condition and that the death toll could rise. “We are investigating the failure of law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Baluchistan’s chief minister, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, said intelligence reports days earlier had indicated that an attack on Quetta was imminent. He suggested that security preparations in the city itself had led the militants to target the college, which is about nine miles from the capital.
“Security was already on high alert, and maybe that is why they have targeted the police training center on the outskirts of the city,” Mr. Zehri said.
One of the wounded cadets, Qasim Ali, said the attack had begun late Monday night as they were getting ready for bed. “Suddenly we heard gunshots,” he said by telephone from a hospital.
“We ran toward the hall door to close it,” Mr. Ali said. “I was wounded in my chest and left leg when the attacker threw an explosive device inside the hall.” He said he took cover under a bed and lost consciousness.
“I wish we’d had enough guns,” Mr. Ali said. “The terrorists could have been killed easily before they could kill us.” Cadets ordinarily do not keep weapons with them during training.