Terrorists attack Pakistan Air Force base in Punjab; army says sent 9 'to hell'
The Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), a newly emerged militant group that is an affiliate of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement to the media
Nine heavily armed terrorists attacked a Pakistan Air Force training base in Punjab province early Saturday and all of them were "sent to hell", the army said, a day after 17 soldiers were killed in three separate terror strikes in the country.
Pakistan Air Force's Mianwali Training Air Base, some 300 km from Lahore, was attacked by nine terrorists, the Pakistan Army said in a statement.
The military confirmed that the "combing and clearance operation at PAF Training Airbase Mianwali has been concluded and all nine terrorists have been sent to hell".
The operation was launched to "eliminate any potential threat in the surrounding area following the cowardly and failed terrorist attack on the base this morning", the statement said.
The army said while no damage had been done to any of the PAF's functional operational assets, some damage was done to three already phased-out non-operational aircraft during the attack.
The Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), a newly emerged militant group that is an affiliate of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement to the media.
Condemning the attack, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar said, "Any attempt to undermine our security will meet with unwavering resistance."
The attack comes hours after a series of terror strikes killed at least 17 soldiers in the restive Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
Fourteen Pakistani soldiers were killed on Friday when militants ambushed two vehicles carrying security forces from Pasni to the Ormara area of Gwadar district in the restive south-western Balochistan province.
Friday's toll is the heaviest suffered by the military in Balochistan province this year where separatists and militants have stepped up their attacks since a ceasefire deal between TTP and the Pakistan government ended in November 2022.
Hours before the Gwadar attack, a series of bomb blasts targeting convoys of police and security forces killed one soldier and five others and wounded 24 others in the Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Two soldiers were killed in another attack in Lakki Marwat district in the same province.
Interim interior minister Sarfraz Bugti said the names of terrorists involved in Friday's and Saturday's attacks "must have been different but the enemy behind the scenes is the same".
He termed the current wave of terror a "conspiracy to make Pakistan a target of uncertainty and instability once again".
Saturday's attack is not the first time that terrorists have attacked a military installation in Pakistan.
In September 2015, Taliban gunmen killed 29 people, including 16 praying in a mosque, when they stormed Badaber air base, close to the northwestern city of Peshawar. It was the deadliest Taliban attack on a military installation in Pakistan's history. Among those killed were 22 serving officials of the Pakistan Air Force, four civilians and three army soldiers responding to the attack. The 13 gunmen were also killed in the attack.
In May 2011, 15 terrorists belonging to TTP and Al Qaeda attacked PNS Mehran, the headquarters of the Pakistan Navy's Naval Air Arm, located in Sindh and killed 18 military personnel and wounded 16. Two American-built surveillance aircraft were also destroyed.
In July this year, militants belonging to the TJP attacked Zhob Garrison in the restive Balochistan province, killing four soldiers and wounding five others.
Throughout this year, terrorists and separatists have been targeting security forces in Pakistan, mainly in the troubled Balochistan province. Two soldiers were killed in the Khoro area of Awaran district last Sunday.
In July, 12 soldiers were killed in separate military operations in the Zhob and Sui areas of Balochistan.
Pakistan has been facing a rise in violence in the wake of the Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan in August 2021.
According to a Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) report issued in September, Pakistan suffered 99 attacks in August, the highest number in a single month since November 2014. The number of militant attacks in August was the highest tally for monthly strikes in almost nine years.
The Gwadar district has seen the highest number of attacks in recent months and in August separatists belonging to the outlawed Baloch Liberation Army attacked a convoy of 23 Chinese engineers in the port town of Gwadar.
The Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), a think tank, in a report released in October, noted that the security forces lost at least 386 personnel in the first nine months of 2023, marking an eight-year high.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were the primary centres of violence, accounting for nearly 94 per cent of all fatalities and 89 per cent of attacks (including incidents of terrorism and security forces operations) recorded during this period.