Heavily-armed Taliban suicide bombers on Friday tried to storm two key airbases in Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province, but the attacks were thwarted by security forces which killed 10 suspected Uzbek fighters.
Officials said Samungli airbase, which is used by the Pakistan Air Force, and Khalid military airbase were the targets of the early morning attacks, the third such incident in just two months.
The attacks were launched before midnight by attackers armed with automatic weapons, grenades and wearing suicide vests, but the militants failed to enter any of the airbase as the security was already on high alert, said a senior police official.
“The police reacted timely and foiled both attempts,” he said on the incidents which took place 12 kilometres apart.
Khalid airbase is located in the Cantonment area of Quetta in Nawakhali while the Samungli airbase is located on the outskirts of the city.
Fourteen persons, including twelve security men, were also injured in the gun battle which lasted for nearly six hours.
Sarfaraz Bugti, the Home Minister Balochistan, said that security forces repulsed the attacks and heavy exchange of fire took place between the attacker and security forces.
Military said both the airbases in Quetta have been cleared.
The Ghalib Mehsud faction of the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“It is a revenge for the army’s killing of innocent people in North and South Waziristan,” said Ghalib Mehsud, who said he was a commander and spokesman for the Taliban wing responsible for training suicide bombers.
“There will be more attacks in coming days,” he said.
More than 20 huge explosions were heard during the search operation. Two militants blew themselves up while trying to enter the airbases.
Khan Wasey, a spokesman for Frontier Corps, said that the militants opened fire at the air bases and hurled grenades. They also fired seven rockets that landed in their premises. He said no damage was caused.
Five militants were killed by security forces during the attack on the Samungli air base and five others were killed at the Khalid Air Base.
Security forces also detained five suspects in connection with the attack targeting Samungli Air Base.
One militant, who was captured in injured condition, has been shifted to an unknown place for interrogation.
“Police are interrogating the suspects,” Imran Qureshi, the Superintendent of Police, said.
The dead militants seem to be 25 to 30 years of age.
“All dead terrorists seem to be Uzbeks,” Bugti said.
“Security forces had also found and disabled four bombs near the Khalid airbase,” Bugti told PTI.
Police also recovered 11 rocket launchers from the Khalid airbase while a huge quantity of arms and ammunition was recovered from the Samungli airbase.
Additional security forces had cordoned off the areas while the injured had been rushed to the Bolan Medical complex in Quetta.
Pakistani security forces are battling against Taliban militants in North Waziristan and launched an all-out offensive against foreign and local terrorist in the area on June 15 after talks with the rebels failed.
More than 500 militants and 29 soldiers have been killed in the ongoing offensive.
In June, 10 Uzbek terrorists had attacked the Karachi airport building, killing at least 29 people.
The same month, militants fired on a plane landing in Peshawar, a provincial capital in the northwest, killing one woman passenger.
After the incidents, security was beefed up at all airports and airbases around the country.