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Central & South Asia

Gunbattle follows Pakistan airport attack

At least six killed as police fight gunmen alleged to be involved in earlier attack on airport in Peshawar.
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2012 09:57
The attackers' rockets did not damage any aircraft, but three did hit a nearby residential area [Reuters]

Police have engaged in a gunbattle with attackers believed to have been involved in an assault on the military side of an international airport in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, officials have said.

Shafqat Malik, a police official, said that the gunmen were in the village of Pawakai, about 3km from the airport.

At least one policeman and five fighters were killed in the gunbattle, police and military officials told Al Jazeera.

"Five militants were hiding in an under-construction house near Peshawar airport," Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial information minister, confirmed. "All of them were suicide bombers. They had weapons and hand grenades."

"The army's quick response force has been called along with the police and is fighting the militants and conducting search operations," Hussain added.

A military official said two or three surviving gunmen had fled to a second building where they had exchanged fire with
security forces who surrounded them.

The latest gunbattle followed a bomb and rocket attack on a Pakistan Air Force base attached to the Bacha Khan international airport in Peshawar on Saturday night.

At least five people, all attackers, were killed in that attack, the military said. Officials said that there had been at least 30 people, including civilians, injured in the attack.

"Terrorists used rockets and suicide bombers to penetrate the base parameters at three different places and caused minor damage to [the] outer perimeter boundary wall," Group Captain Tariq Mahmood, a spokesperson for the air force, said.

The attackers used two vehicles carrying explosives, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. No military equipment was damaged or destroyed in the attack, Mahmood said.

Three suicide vests were also found in one of the vehicles.

Authorities are now in "total control" of the base and "normal operations have resumed", the military said, with all other air bases in the country being placed on security alert.

'No damage'

On Saturday night, Pakistani television footage showed a vehicle with a smashed windscreen, another damaged car, bushes on fire and what appeared to be a large breach in a wall of the airport compound.

Pakistan's air force said the rocket attack had damaged the outer wall of the air field, which lies near a residential area and military barracks in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

"No terrorist [was] able to penetrate inside [the air field]," Mahmood said.

He added that there had been no casualties among the Pakistan military or damage to equipment during the incident.

Three rockets also hit a nearby residential area, a military official said.

Taliban claims

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, which forced the airport to close.

"We carried out this suicide attack, we will carry more such attacks on this airport," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told the AFP news agancy by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The attack is one of the most audacious raids by Pakistani armed groups since an attack on a military air base in August.

Peshawar is located on the edge of Pakistan's tribal region, a sanctuary for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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