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Pakistani airbase attack leaves 9 militants dead
1 security officer killed; TTP claims responsibility
By Zahir Shah
ATTOCK – Nine militants and a security officer were killed and three other personnel were injured after militants wearing suicide jackets and army uniforms stormed the heavily guarded Pakistani Air Force (PAF) Minhas airbase in Kamra early August 16, sparking a five-hour-long gun battle.
Militants attacked the base – located 60km from Islamabad – with rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons and grenades at about 2.10am, when most soldiers were awake for sehri, the pre-dawn Ramadan meal.
The militants almost immediately gunned down security officer Muhammad Asif, PAF spokesman Group Captain Tariq Mehmood said. Six militants were subsequently killed by security forces, while the other three died after detonating their suicide vests, Dawn News reported.
The three injured security personnel were identified as Air Commodore Azam, who led the operation against the militants, Naik Ashraf and sepoy Iqbal, according to a PAF statement.
Airbase security had been alerted to prepare for a possible attack, based on intelligence reports a few days earlier.
“The death toll of the militants and the minimal damage caused to the base are clear proof of the preparedness of the forces,” Defence Minister Naveed Qamar said.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was meant to avenge the deaths of Osama bin Laden, Baitullah Mehsud and other militants killed by the Pakistani security forces or their allies.
Rahimullah, who lives near the Kamra base, told Central Asia Online that he was preparing for sehri when he heard gunshots and explosions.
“When I came out of my house, I saw many police and security personnel entering the base from the GT Road side and then heard some more loud explosions,” he said.
Security forces later cleared the area after a six-hour search operation, defusing two landmines planted in the area. They moved the militants’ bodies to an unknown location.
More than 30 warplanes were parked at the base, PAF officials confirmed, and one of the aircraft was slightly damaged.
The Minhas airbase and the PAF Kamra Aeronautical Complex comprise a heavily guarded compound where PAF personnel overhaul JF-17 Thunder fighter jets.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minster Raja Pervaiz Ashraf condemned the attack and re-iterated the government’s resolve to eliminate terrorism.
This was not the base's first brush with terrorism. A suicide bomber October 23, 2009, blew himself up at the entrance of the Aeronautical Complex, killing two security officers and six other people.
Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt has ordered an investigation, and PAF officers were meeting in Islamabad to assess the situation.
Abdul Nasir Khan and Yasir Rehman contributed to this report