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PAKISTANíS MINHAS AIR BASE STORMED BY MILITANTS

PAKISTANíS MINHAS AIR BASE STORMED
 
 BY MILITANTS


 
At least nine men, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, have stormed an air force base in Kamra, northwest of the Pakistani capital, killing one security official, officials said on Thursday 08/16/2012. Eight attackers were killed, a military spokesperson said, after the assault at the Minhas Air base sparked a fierce firefight that lasted several hours. The ninth attacker was killed when he exploded his suicide vest outside the perimeter of the base, the military said.

Commandos were called in to aid in the defence of the base, and police armoured personnel carriers were also involved in the operation to secure the facility. Security forces opened fire on the attackers, some of whom were strapped with suicide bombing vests, as they approached aircraft hangars just before dawn on Thursday. The initial assault prompted other attackers to fire rocket-propelled grenades from outside the base's walls, an air force spokesman told Reuters news agency. Base commander Air Commodore Muhammad Azam, who led the operation against the attackers, was wounded in the shoulder, but is in stable condition, said the spokesman. "Security personnel are now in the process of scanning the entire area to check for the presence of any other miscreant," he said.

The base was declared secure and clear of attackers by 12:25pm local time (07:25 GMT), 10 hours after the attack began, Air Force Spokesperson Captain Tariq Mahmood said. At least one of the rockets hit a hanger holding a number of aircraft, said Mahmood. The rocket pierced the hanger wall, and shrapnel from the explosion damaged one of the aircraft parked inside. After the rocket barrage, the attackers, some of whom were disguised in security forces' uniforms, scaled the wall surrounding the airbase, he said. Guards inside the base then opened fire on the militants, and an intense firefight ensued, he said. In the initial exchange of gunfire one Pakistani soldier was killed. Security forces, backed by a team of elite commandos, fought the militants for two hours and were finally able to retake the base, the air force said. Two improvised explosive devices were found during search operations following the attack,

One officer told AFP news agency that he saw flames after waking up for his late night meal - Aftar, eaten during the dawn-to-dusk Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The Minhas Airbase, 75 km northwest of Islamabad, is adjacent to the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, a major air force research and development centre. Pakistan manufactures JF-17 fighter planes, jointly developed with China, at the site. Several squadrons of fighter jets, including F-16s, and surveillance planes are believed to be based at Minhas. A spokesman said that the base does not house any nuclear weapons.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. According to local media, the government was aware of the threat of Tehrik-e-Taleban of an attack on an air force base in Punjab. The report cities a provincial government document detailing the threat.

On 10/23/2009, a suicide bomber struck the gate of Minhas airbase, killing 6 people and wounding 8 others (see - Koktai 10.24.09).

Last year, six Taliban gunmen attacked the Mehran naval base in Pakistan's largest city Karachi to avenge the killing of Osama Bin Laden. At least 10 military personnel were killed and 20 wounded in the 16-hour assault (see - Mehran Attack).
 
* Elsewhere in Pakistan, on the same day, as many as 25 Shiaa Muslims have been forced out of a bus and killed in a sectarian attack in northern Pakistan, officials said . The killings took place in a remote and mountainous area about 160km (100 miles) North of the capital Islamabad as the bus was travelling from the city of Rawalpindi to the city of Gilgit in the far North (see -PK Secterian-Violence).
 
 
* Related topics ;

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16/08/2012 10:28:06


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