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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army and civilian leaders pay their respects to the victims of Badhaber base camp attack in Peshawar on Friday. —APP
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army and civilian leaders pay their respects to the victims of Badhaber base camp attack in Peshawar on Friday. —APP

PESHAWAR: Unlike the past, the militants, who attacked Pakistan Air Force’s base camp in Badhaber, Peshawar, on Friday morning, seemed to have come with a different strategy to engage the security forces in a long gun battle, experts say.

“For the first time, the militants used an altogether different strategy as none of the attackers had worn suicide vest,” said Shafqat Malik, head of the Bomb Disposal Squad, who examined bodies of attackers and ammunition inside the camp.

Shafqat Malik said previously, militants used to wear suicide jackets.

“The quantity of ammunition, which terrorists had carried, showed they had come for a long gun battle,” he said.

The BDS head said two cellphones were also recovered from the attackers, who were aged between 20 and 30 years.

In the past, the militants used suicide vests in attacks, especially on security installations.

The attackers, who killed around 150 students and teachers at Army Public School Peshawar on December 16, 2014, had also used suicide jackets.

BDS chief says no attacker had worn suicide jacket

In a statement, Mohammad Khurassani, spokesman for the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack and insisted 14 militants took part in Badhaber camp attack and reached there in two vehicles.

The militants launched attack at around 5am. People in the vicinity heard loud explosions inside the camp.

The army confirmed that 22 PAF personnel, three soldiers, including Captain Asfandyar Bukhari, and four civilians were killed, while 25 others got injuries in attack.

Officials said heavy weapons and ammunition were recovered from attackers. They said militants wore identical jaguars and carried AK-47 rifles, rocket propelled grenades-7, anti-tank rocket launchers, hand grenades, improvised explosive devices and backpacks with loaded magazines.

The security officials said attackers lobbed hand grenades to engage guards manning the camp’s main entrance.

They believed that attackers had planned to breach the second line of defence to reach mess and residential quarters.

“Personnel did a good job and engaged attackers at the second line of defence close to mechanised transport section in the camp,” said an official.

Bodies of militants lied near the mechanised transport section.

“Had they (militants) reached residential quarters, it would have proved more fatal,” he said.

Major casualties occurred at the main mosque, where terrorists lobbed hand grenades at worshipers.

Bodies of 13 attackers were taken in custody.

Shafqat Malik said fingerprints of attackers had been taken, while DNA tests would be conducted.

“Fingerprints are perfect and experts will be able to identify them easily,” he said.

Arrival of over one dozen attackers in two vehicles also exposed intelligence and state of preparedness of law-enforcement agencies, especially the police. Attackers used main road to reach the PAF camp, where the police have checkpoints.

The camp is located in a thickly populated area, where Afghan refugees have sufficient concentration.

Several Afghan jihadi commanders are understood to have rented residential compounds in the vicinity. Easy access by attackers to the camp shows that the sensitive installation housing technicians, training facilities and families was not properly protected.

The Badhaber locality is said to be notorious as for the law and order situation. The area is close to Frontier Region Peshawar and used to be infested with criminals and hardcore terrorists.

The locals had raised local lashkars to fend off attacks from militants in the past but the area is still considered to be unsafe.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2015

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