Pakistani security personnel gather near the airport after a rocket attack on an airport in Peshawar on December 15, 2012. – Photo by AFP

PESHAWAR: Suicide bombers armed with rockets attacked the military side of a Pakistani airport in the northwestern city of Peshawar Saturday, killing four civilians and wounding more than 30, officials said. Five militants also were killed.   

Peshawar is on the edge of Pakistan's tribal region, the main sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the country. The city has frequently been attacked in the past few years, but Saturday was the first strike against the airport, which is jointly used by the air force and civilian authorities.

The militants fired three rockets at the airport, two of which hit a wall ringing the premises, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Peshawar is the capital. The third landed near a government building outside the wall, Hussain said.

The militants also set off a car bomb outside the wall around the airport, causing civilian casualties, said the military.

The dead and wounded civilians from the attack came from neighborhoods located near the airport, said Umar Ayub, a local hospital official. The 36 wounded included six women and three children, and several people were in critical condition, said Ayub.

Five militants were killed in a gunbattle with security forces during the attack, said the military.

However, Zahid Khan, a police explosives expert, said it appeared that three of the militants were accidentally killed when the car bomb they used to try to break through the airport wall exploded.

Four of the attackers who were killed were wearing suicide vests that have been defused, said the air force.

The air force side of the airport was the target of the attack and authorities were searching the area for any remaining attackers, said Defense Minister Naveed Qamar.

No air force personnel were wounded in the attack and none of the service's equipment was damaged, the air force said.

Local TV footage showed people in the neighborhoods near the airport rushing for safety as the attack occurred. One car was damaged in the attack and another was set on fire. A house was also damaged.

The airport was closed, and flights were diverted to other cities, said Pervez George, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority.

In the latest development, the Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack. “We carried out this suicide attack, we will carry more such attacks on this airport,” banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

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