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Taliban targets airbase near Peshawar

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Pakistan’s military says two security officers and six fighters have been killed following an attack on an airbase in the north of the country.

Tehreek-e-Taliban, or Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for Friday morning’s attack as gunfire was exchanged at Badaber Air Force base, on the outskirts of Peshawar.

The assault on the airbase came as the army was carrying out a major operation against local and foreign fighters in the North Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

The attackers stormed the guard room of the base, but the attack was quickly repulsed, Major-General Asim Saleem Bajwa, an army spokesman, said.

He said six fighters were killed and two soldiers wounded.

The airbase, located on the edge of Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was not functional and it was mostly being used as a residential place for the employees and officers of the air force.

The base was established in 1960s.

Ambulances had taken around 20 wounded military personnel to hospital, Bilal Ahmed, a rescue official, told Reuters.

‘Explosive-laden jackets’

A military official at the base, who asked not to be identified, said the attackers opened fire on security guards as they tried to fight their way into the facility.

“All the terrorists were wearing explosives-laden jackets and were armed with hand-propelled grenades, mortars, AK-47 rifles,” the official told Reuters.

“The Quick Response Force of the Pakistan army immediately responded and killed six terrorists before they could enter,” he said.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Mohamad Khurasani, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a statement to the media, he said their fighters gave safe exit to women and children after attacking the base.

He said that the fighters targeted 50 security forces, but the claim could not be confirmed by government or military sources.

TV footage showed army helicopters hovering near the base, as police and troops surrounded the area.

Shahid Khan Bangash, a local police officer, told the Associated Press news agency a large explosion was heard after the attackers tried to storm the base.

“We are hearing that the attackers were armed with guns and rockets,” he said.

Search operation

Bangash said the attackers threw grenades at the guard room but they could not enter the main area.

He said the shooting had stopped and a search operation for the attackers who might be hiding was under way.

The attack came a day after Junaid Khan, a counterterrorism officer, in Karachi said they had arrested a fighters who recently made a failed attempt to target an air force facility in Kamra in the northwest.

The home minister of Punjab province and 15 others were killed in a suicide attack last month.

The number of attacks in Pakistan has fallen around 70 percent this year, due to a combination of a military offensive against Taliban bases along the Afghan border and government initiatives to tackle violence.

That follows a massacre at a military-run school last December that killed around 150 people, almost all of them children. Al Jazeera

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