PESHAWAR: At least 42 people, including 13 terrorists, were killed as the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) camp at Inqalab road in Peshawar's Badaber area came under attack by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants early Friday.
Thirteen terrorists were killed by security forces, Director-General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Asim Bajwa said on Twitter.
Sixteen people offering prayers at a mosque inside the airforce camp were killed by a group of militants, Bajwa said. Addressing a press conference later during the day he said that seven other people were killed in the ablution area of the mosque.
Three PAF technicians were killed in the attack, a PAF spokesperson said, adding that the airmen were deployed at the guardroom when the attack occurred.
Terrorists entered the camp at two points, splitting into sub-groups, Bajwa claimed. The firefight began immediately due to the quick response from security forces, he said.
The attackers were wearing constabulary uniforms.
Pakistan Army's Captain Asfandyar was killed in the attack.
The DG ISPR said 10 soldiers were injured during an exchange of fire with terrorists — two of whom are officers.
Rescue sources, however, said 22 people have been injured, out of whom 20 have been shifted to CMH Peshawar and two have been taken to Lady Reading Hospital (LRH). An emergency has been declared in both hospitals. Dr Subhani at LRH said one unidentified body had been brought to the hospital.
TTP spokesperson Muhammad Khurasani claimed responsibility for the attack in an e-mail sent to journalists.
A search operation for hidden terrorists is underway, Bajwa said. Corps Commander Lieutenant-General Hidayatur Rehman conducted aerial surveillance of the base from a helicopter.
Around 15 people were arrested during the search operation, police said.
The attack was carried out by a group of seven to 10 terrorists, the DG ISPR said earlier, while eyewitnesses claimed they saw around six to seven terrorists dressed in black militia uniforms wearing white shoes.
A military official at the base said, "All the terrorists were wearing explosives-laden jackets and were armed with hand grenades, mortars, AK-47 rifles."
Nearby residents said explosions and gunfire could still be heard more than three hours after the attack took place.
|Map of the location.|
When the attack occurred, a heavy contingent of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) reached the spot. An exchange of fire between the militants and security forces took place. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) police have cordoned off the area.
The DG ISPR said terrorists had attacked the guard room at the camp early in the morning. The QRF reached the scene and surrounded the attackers, isolating them.
The terrorists had been engaged and confined to a small area around the guard room area of the camp.
The Badaber camp used to be an operational airforce base. It is no longer an operational airbase but is still used as a PAF training centre.
The base is on one side of the road, while a residential estate lies on the opposite side.
COAS, CAS, Corps Commander meet
|COAS, Chief of Air Staff and Corps Commander meet at Core Headquarters. ─ Photo: ISPR Official Facebook page.|
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif reached Peshawar earlier today. He held a meeting with Corps Commander Lieutenant-General Hidayatur Rehman to discuss the terrorist attack at the Badaber PAF airforce camp.
The COAS and Corps Commander discussed the deaths of two PAF technicians who were posted at the airforce base's guard room. The army chief was briefed about the condition of Major Haseeb of the Pakistan Army who was wounded during retaliatory action against the attackers.
Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman also met COAS Raheel Sharif and the Corps Commander at Corps Headquarters in Peshawar. Prior to the meeting, he briefed the prime minister about the ongoing operation in Badaber over the telephone.
The Corps Commander briefed the Air Chief and COAS on the Peshawar operation.
The COAS and Chief of Air Staff visited the wounded at CMH.
They then visited Badaber airforce camp to meet PAF, Army and police personnel who defeated the attackers.
Condemnations pour in
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Peshawar and strongly condemned the attack on the Badaber airforce camp.
Nawaz reiterated the nation's resolve to continue its mission of eliminating terrorism with zeal.
The premier said he is being kept updated on the ongoing operation against terrorists. He said the armed forces of the country have the full support of the entire nation, and that networks of terrorists would soon be eliminated from Pakistan.
Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed also repeated the national resolve of fighting terror and paid homage to the martyrs by saying that such cowardly attempts cannot weaken the country's resolve and the anti-terror operation will continue till the elimination of last terrorist.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif while commenting upon the tragic incident said that "once again our brave and valiant soldiers have proved their commitment to the defence of the motherland.
In his condemnation message, Asif maintained that the way in which our soldiers responded shows how vigilant and brave our armed forces are.
Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan in his Twitter message condemned what he called a 'cowardly' attack on the PAF airbase while commending the timely actions of the QRF.
Imran also paid rich tribute to the martyred Captain Asfandyar who led the troops to defeat terrorists' plan. He also prayed for the recovery of injured.
Funeral prayers held
Funeral prayers of those killed in the attack on the PAF base have been held in Peshawar. The funeral prayers were attended by the Prime Minister, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and other military and civilian leaders.
Nisar meets PM
Earlier in the day, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar called on the premier at PM House. Nisar apprised the PM about the role of civil law enforcement agencies in the terrorist attack at Badaber airforce camp.
Matters relating to the law and order situation in country were also discussed during the meeting.
KP Speaker visits LRH
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Speaker and Acting Governor Asad Qaisar also visited LRH to inquire about the health of those injured in the attack.
On Aug 16, 2012 militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons had carried out a brazen attack under cover of darkness on the Minhas base of the PAF at Kamra, Dawn newspaper reported. The TTP had claimed responsibility for the assault on Kamra air base.
Peshawar suffered the worst terror attack in Pakistani history in December 2014 when TTP gunmen massacred more than 150 people, most of them children, at an army-run school.
But recently then there has been a lull in violence. The last deadly attack in the city came in February when three heavily armed Taliban militants stormed a Shia mosque, killing 21 people.
Military operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched against insurgent hideouts in North Waziristan on June 15 following a brazen militant attack on Karachi's international airport and the failure of peace talks between the government and TTP negotiators.
Officials say nearly 3,000 militants have been killed since the launch of the latest offensive.
The number of attacks in Pakistan has fallen around 70 per cent this year, due to a combination of a military offensive against Taliban bases along the Afghan border and government initiatives to tackle militancy.
─ Additional reporting by Irfan Haider.