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Eight militants killed in Kamra airbase attack: PAF officials

ATTOCK: Seven heavily armed militants stormed the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Minhas airbase at Kamra during the early hours of Thursday, sparking an intense gun battle lasting almost five hours, DawnNews reported.

The militants were said to be armed with automatic weapons, grenades
and suicide vests. Intense exchange of fire between militants and
security forces ensued after the attackers infiltrated the base, located
in Attock, Punjab.

PAF officials confirmed that all seven attackers have been killed.
One Pakistani soldier also lost his life in the attack, confirmed
officials.

It was not immediately clear how the attackers managed to enter the
sprawling base this time. Several squadrons of fighters and surveillance
planes are believed to be housed there.

“One body of a suicide bomber strapped with explosives has been found close to the impact area,” said an air force statement.

Base commander, Air Commodore Muhammad Azam, who led the operation
against the attackers, was wounded, 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,” said the
spokesman.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt has ordered investigations of the incident.

Air Chief Marshal summoned a meeting today at Air headquarter
Islamabad to analyse the situation after the attack and to mull over the
initial intelligence reports. The meeting would be attended by top
leadership of Pakistan Air Force.

Chief of Kamra aeronautical complex and Base Commander will brief the meeting.

Officials also said that one of aircraft at the base was damaged in
the attack, which appeared to have been targeted at the PAF’s fighter
jets parked at the Minhas base. Air Force officials confirmed that over
30 planes parked, including state-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder fighter jets.

Three to four of the militants wore military uniforms, officials
said, adding that the attackers were between 19 to 33 years of age. It
was also reported earlier that some of the militants wore suicide vests.

A joint search operation of security forces and police inside and
outside the base was launched. PAC Hospital Kamra was also put on high
alert following the attack.

The militants were reported to have attacked the base from Pind
Salman Makhan village at around 2:30 am, sources said. When security
officials at the check-post attempted to halt them, the militants opened
fire. An intense gun battle lasting hours followed. Commandos of the
Army and PAF were engaged in the operation against the attackers.

Tehrik-iTaliban (TTP)  spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan declined to comment
on the incident whereas no other group has claimed responsibility for
the attack as yet.

Kamra is located about 70 kms from the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
The Minhas airbase is a heavily guarded compound with the Pakistan Air
Force’s Kamra Aeronautical Complex in its vicinity, where Pakistan
assembles and overhauls JF-17 Thunder fighter jets in collaboration with
China. According to reports, at least 11 Chinese engineers were working
at the Kamra Aeronautical Complex.

All Chinese and others foreign engineers and technicians involved in
co-production of Chinese and Pakistan JF-17 Thunder aircraft project
were shifted to a high profile secure location, sources told Dawn.com,
adding that the engineers were not present near the attack area. Sources
confirmed that at least 30 aircraft were on the base.

The government and military’s top leadership, including President
Asif Ali Zardari, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaque Pervez Kayani and
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf were notified of the attack, and the
operation was being closely monitored by the army chief.

In recent weeks, military intelligence had warned of the possibility
of such an attack on military installations. However, there was no
specific information about an attack being targeted at the Kamra base.

This is not the first time that Kamra has been the target of a
terrorist attack.  On Oct 23, 2009, a suicide bomber blew himself up at
the entrance of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra. Two security
officers and six other people were killed in the attack.

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