Peshawar: In the deadliest attack on a military installation this year, Taliban gunmen stormed a Pakistani air force base early on Friday, killing at least 17 people, a military spokesman said. Thirteen terrorists were killed by security forces, military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa tweeted.
Sixteen people offering prayers at a mosque inside the air force camp were killed by the militants, Bajwa said. It was unclear if the 16 killed in the mosque at the Badaber air base in the northwestern city of Peshawar were civilians or military personnel. A doctor at a hospital said they have received one more unidentified body.
Terrorists entered the camp at two points, splitting into sub-groups, sparking a fierce gunbattle with security forces, Bajwa said. At least 22 people, including eight soldiers and two senior army officer, were injured in the attack. Injured persons have been shifted to a military hospital in Peshawar and two have been taken to Lady Reading Hospital (LRH). An emergency has been declared in both hospitals.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. “Our suicidal unit carried out the attack,” TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurasani said in an email statement. Bajwa said security forces reached the area shortly after and sealed it off but a gunbattle is still under way.
“Clearance ops still underway. Searching for hidden terrorists,” Bajwa tweeted. Eyewitnesses claim they saw terrorists dressed in black militia uniforms and wearing white shoes. Nearby residents said explosions and gunfire could still be heard hours after the attack took place.
Corps Commander Lieutenant General Hidayatur Rehman conducted aerial surveillance of the base from a helicopter. Around 15 people were arrested during the search operation. Army chief General Raheel Sharif has left for Peshawar. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and said, “Terrorists will be rooted out from the country.”
The Badaber air base is not functional and mostly being used as a residential place for the employees and officers of the air force.
The number of attacks in Pakistan has fallen around 70 percent this year, as the military has launched an offensive against Taliban bases along the Afghan border and government ha stepped up measures to fight militancy.
That follows a massacre at a military-run school last December that killed about 150 people, almost all of them children. But militants still strike high-value targets, despite the fall-off in attacks. The home minister of Punjab province was among 16 people killed in a suicide attack last month.