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Armed men storm airbase in central Pakistan, damage aircraft

A number of militants have briefly stormed an air base in central Pakistan, damaging aircraft, a day after gunmen killed more than a dozen soldiers in the country’s restive southwest.

On Saturday morning, at least nine militants attacked the Pakistan Air Force Training Airbase Mianwali, in the central-eastern province of Punjab, damaging three “non-operational” aircraft, the Pakistani army said in a statement.

It added that security forces killed all militants, three of them before entering the base while the rest had been cornered before the clearance operation began.

“No damage has been done to any of the Pakistan Air Force’s functional operational assets, while only some damage was done to three already phased-out non-operational aircraft during the attack,” it said.

In an earlier statement, the military had said that “a fuel bowser” had also been damaged in the attack.

“Due to the swift and effective response by the troops, (the attack) has been foiled and thwarted, ensuring the safety and security of personnel and assets,” the statement further noted.

The Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), a newly-emerged militant group that is an affiliate of the home-grown Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) movement, has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement to the media.

The little-known TJP has so far carried out a series of high-profile attacks in Pakistan, including killing 12 soldiers at a Pakistani military base in the southwestern province of Balochistan in July.

Militant attack kills seven troops in Pakistan's restive Balochistan

Gunmen kill 14 soldiers in SW Pakistan

Meanwhile, at least 14 Pakistani soldiers were killed when an army convoy came under attack by gunmen in Balochistan on Friday, the army said in a statement.

“Two vehicles of security forces moving from Pasni to Ormara in Gwadar District were ambushed by the terrorists,” said the Inter Services Public Relations Pakistan (ISPR), the army’s public relations wing.

The statement, however, did not identify what group the army expected was behind the attack, which occurred on a coastal highway that stretches from the Iranian border to the southern metropolis of Karachi.

Balochistan has for decades been plagued by militancy by nationalist and separatist groups who seek to secure bigger shares in regional resources. The resulting chaos, coupled with a lack of security, has made room for the activities of criminal gangs, human smugglers, and terror outfits linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda militant groups.

Balochistan was rocked by a series of terrorist attacks in late 2016, raising fears about an increasing presence of armed militants in the area, including terrorists linked to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

“Sanitization operation is being carried out in the area and perpetrators of this heinous act will be hunted down and brought to justice,” the army added.

In a statement, Balochistan’s caretaker Chief Minister Ali Mardan Domki strongly condemned the attack, vowing that the perpetrators of the strike would be brought to justice.

Friday’s toll is the heaviest suffered by the military in the province.

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