Islamabad: In a fierce gun battle, Pakistani security forces killed 10 Taliban fighters responsible for an abortive attempt to storm an air force base in the northwestern city of Peshawar, the latest in a string of audacious attacks by the militants.
A policeman and four civilians were also killed in the attack on the airport on Saturday night and a subsequent gun battle this morning. Over 40 civilians were injured, officials said.
Five suicide attackers who were part of the group that tried to enter the Bacha Khan International Airport, which also houses the Pakistan Air Force base, were killed during the gun battle on the outskirts of Peshawar on Sunday morning.
The terrorists were hiding in a compound in the suburb of Pawaka that was surrounded by troops, chief military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa told the media.
Three of them were gunned down while others blew themselves up. All five men appeared to be Uzbeks, he said.
Other officials said a policeman was killed and two more were injured in the clash.
Residents of Pawaka, located a short distance from the airport, said five militants took shelter in a house being built in the area at about 7.30 am. The armed men demanded that they should be given a car. They warned people not to alert the police, local residents said.
Police and army troops reached the spot a few hours later after they were alerted by local residents. Security forces sealed off the area and conducted a search and clearance operation to flush out the militants.
Footage on television showed armed policemen and soldiers and armoured vehicles advancing through the alleys of Pawaka towards the house where the militants were hiding. The sound of heavy gunfire could be heard in the footage.
Security personnel were shown removing the body of a policeman who was killed in the gun battle. The body of a militant could be seen lying in a narrow alley.
Maj Gen Bajwa said the terrorists, who were carrying heavy weapons and suicide vests, tried to breach the airport`s perimeter at three places last night. They used an anti-tank mine and two explosives-laden vehicles in these assaults.
One attacker blew himself up while four others were gunned down, he said.
The militants fired five rockets at the airport and nearby areas, killing four civilians. Over 40 local residents, including women and children, were injured when they were hit by shrapnel from rockets and bullets. Troops sealed off the areas around the airport and declared them clear only after a 10-hour search operation.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said troops had been on high alert as some of the militants involved in yesterday`s attack had escaped after the airport was surrounded by troops.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack on the airport, with spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan saying the Pakistan Air Force base was the main target.
"We have planned more attacks on Pakistani forces and their installation as they work to please the US," Ihsan said in phone calls to reporters in the country`s northwest.