Peshawar: At least 17 people were killed today when heavily armed Taliban militants launched a brazen attack on an air force base and a mosque inside it in this restive Pakistani city, in one of the major assaults on a military facility that also left 13 militants dead.
A group of gunmen wearing explosives-laden jackets and armed with hand-propelled grenades, mortars, AK-47 rifles attacked a guard post as they tried to fight their way into the Badaber air base on outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Thirteen militants 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.
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.
Khurasani claimed that 80 security personnel were surrounded by the militants and 50 of them killed but it was not confirmed. He also claimed that women and children were given safe exit which was also not confirmed.
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 militants 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.
Peshawar has frequently been targeted by militants. Last December more than 150 people, mostly children were killed when Taliban gunmen attacked an army-run school. (PTI)