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Gunmen attack 2 airbases in Pakistan, 12 militants killed

PTI 15 Aug 2014, 20:44:25 PM IST
Karachi: Heavily-armed Taliban suicide bombers today tried to storm two key airbases in Quetta, capital of Pakistan's restive Balochistan province, but the attacks were foiled by security forces which killed 12 suspected Uzbek fighters.

Officials said Samungli airbase, which is used by the Pakistan Air Force, and Khalid military airbase were the targets of the early morning attacks, the third such incident in just two months.

The attacks were launched before midnight by attackers armed with automatic weapons, grenades and wearing suicide vests, but the militants failed to enter any of the airbase as the security was already on high alert, said a senior police official.

“The police reacted timely and foiled both attempts,” he said on the incidents which took place 12 kilometres apart.  Khalid airbase is located in the Cantonment area of Quetta in Nawakhali while the Samungli airbase is located on the outskirts of the city.

Fourteen persons, including twelve security men, were also injured in the gun battle which lasted for nearly nine hours.

Sarfaraz Bugti, the Home Minister Balochistan, said that security forces repulsed the attacks and heavy exchange of fire took place between the attacker and security forces.  Military said both the airbases in Quetta have been cleared.

The Ghalib Mehsud faction of the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attacks.  “It is a revenge for the army's killing of innocent people in North and South Waziristan,” said Ghalib Mehsud, who said he was a commander and spokesman for the Taliban wing responsible for training suicide bombers.  “There will be more attacks in coming days,” he said.  More than 20 huge explosions were heard during the search operation. Two militants blew themselves up while trying to enter the airbases.

Khan Wasey, a spokesman for Frontier Corps, said that the militants opened fire at the air bases and hurled grenades.  They also fired seven rockets that landed in their premises.

He said no damage was caused.

Five militants were killed by security forces during the attack on the Samungli air base and seven others were killed at the Khalid Air Base.

Security forces also detained five suspects in connection with the attack targeting Samungli Air Base.  A security official said the militants apparently tried to take advantage of the fact that since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Quetta and Ziarat yesterday, security would be lax in other areas.

“But since the attack on the Karachi airport, security has been on red alert at all airports and airbases,” the official said.