PESHAWAR, Dec 16: In a sequel to the overnight brazen attack on the PAF base at Peshawar’s Bacha Khan Airport, five more militants were killed in an hours-long operation by security personnel on Sunday morning.
The operation in Pawaka village also left a police constable dead and two others wounded.
“This was a sequel to Saturday night’s attack on the PAF base,” an official said.
While five attackers had blown themselves up in a van outside the wall of the airport and the air force base during the previous day’s shootout, five others had managed to dodge police bullets to escape to the nearby village,
This confirmed a claim by a Tehrik-i-Taliban spokesman that 10 militants had taken part in the attack.
The official said the second group of attackers had taken shelter in an under-construction house in Pawaka.
“It was an intelligence tip-off,” the official said, adding that military personnel and a squad from the elite police Quick Reaction Force (QRF) were dispatched to the village.
An official of the bomb disposal squad (BDS) said forensic evidence collected from the scene of Saturday’s attack had indicated the involvement of a second group.
“There was a trail of bags full of ammunition and improvised bombs,” BDS chief Shafqat Malik told Dawn.
The under-construction house in the village was around a kilometre away from the western boundary of the airfield.
The militants had asked the owner of the house to provide them a vehicle and shawls so that they could leave the neighbourhood, warning him against informing the police, a resident said.
According to police, they faced stiff resistance from the militants, but eventually overpowered the terrorists, eliminating three of them. Two others who were holed up in the compound blew themselves up after exhausting their ammunition.
Four of the militants appeared to be of Uzbek origin, a government official said.
A villager recalled that the militants could neither speak Pushto nor Urdu. “They were not locals,” he said.
Sunday’s encounter raised the number of militants killed over the past two days to 10.
Six other people, including two policemen, were killed and over 40 others injured.
Peshawar’s police chief Syed Imtiaz Altaf told reporters that the area had been cleared of militants, but law enforcement agencies would continue combing adjoining areas for any accomplices.
PLAN TO OCCUPY BASE: A security official said bags seized from the van blown up on Saturday contained dates and bottled water, indicating that the militants wanted to occupy the airbase. He said seven bombs in steel containers had also been found.
It appeared that the first group was tasked with breaching the western perimeter of the base and engaging security personnel so that a second batch could go in, lay bombs and occupy buildings.
“The logistics indicate they had come well prepared to occupy the airbase,” he said.
But the senior government official said the second group appeared to have been tasked with opening another front for security forces so as to cause confusion and mayhem. But they seem to have abandoned the plan after the vehicle blew up, he added.
“It was a synchronised attack. Either the plan was to occupy buildings inside the airbase or damage aircraft. Luckily for us, the vehicle blew up, taking with it the five bombers,” the security official said.
He said that security forces had been alerted after intelligence reports indicated last week that militants planned to attack the airport.
“The intelligence had been shared with airport authorities and the security forces. We were fully prepared.”
SUICIDE JACKETS: The bomb disposal chief said the six suicide jackets defused after the abortive airbase attack and in Pawaka “were not home-made crude suicide vests that we are familiar with. These appeared to be machine-made”.
“They were a work of craftsmanship. This is the first time I have seen such sophisticated jackets,” he said.
The jackets had steel containers and compressed high-intensity explosives in order to sow cause more destruction. “There were no pellets.”
WELL-TRAINED MILITANTS: A police constable said that militants were well-trained. “I was in an armoured personnel carrier (APC) when one of the militants attacked us in a street near the village hideout. He was well-trained and soon the front wheels of
the APC went flat,” constable Mukhtar Khan said.
One of the policemen in the APC shot the attacker in the head.
The streets near the under-construction house were littered with empties of automatic weapons.
The bodies of three of the militants were found in different streets.
An official claimed that when the two militants who were holed up in the double-storey building realised that they were cornered they blew themselves up.
Ayub Khan, a mason, recalled that when he entered his under-construction house early in the morning before arrival of labourers, he found the five militants there. “The militants asked me at gunpoint to arrange shawls and a vehicle.”