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Militants Raid Pakistani Air Force Base After Killing 17 Soldiers Elsewhere

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s military said Saturday a predawn militant raid on an air force training base in the central city of Mianwali damaged three aircraft, a day after multiple attacks elsewhere in the country killed 22 people, mostly soldiers.

An army statement said security forces killed three of the assailants before they entered the base and killed six others in the ensuing clashes. It credited a “swift and effective response by the troops” for thwarting the “terrorist” raid and “ensuring the safety and security of personnel at the facility.”

“However, during the attack, some damage to three already grounded aircraft and a fuel bowser [fuel transport tank] also occurred,” the military said.

A new militant group called the Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan claimed responsibility for plotting the attack. The group has carried out several high-profile raids against security forces in recent months. They included an attack on a military base in southwestern Baluchistan province that killed 12 Pakistani soldiers in July.

Saturday’s raid on the air force base came a day after insurgents ambushed a military convoy in Baluchistan’s Gwadar district, killing 14 soldiers. The district hosts a China-run deep-water Arabian Sea port.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the Gwadar incident, but suspicions fell on ethnic Baluch militants, who routinely target security forces in the area. They say they are fighting for the independence of natural resource-rich Baluchistan. Insurgents accuse China and Pakistan of exploiting the oil, copper, gold, iron ore, and other natural resources of the province, charges both countries reject as baseless.

Separately on Friday, officials and the military reported that bomb blasts and clashes with militants linked to the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, had killed at least five civilians and three soldiers in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

TTP-led militants and Baluch insurgents have lately intensified attacks in both provinces, which are on Pakistan’s nearly 2,600-kilometer border with Afghanistan. The violence has killed more than 700 people in Pakistan this year, including civilians, and security forces. The military has confirmed nearly 240 soldiers were among those killed.

Pakistani officials say fugitive militant leaders and fighters use Afghan soil to plot cross-border attacks, charges the neighboring country’s Taliban rulers reject. The TTP is called the Pakistani Taliban, a known offshoot and ally of the Afghan Taliban.

Sparsely populated Baluchistan, which also shares the country’s 900-kilometer border with Iran, has received significant Chinese investment in recent years under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a bilateral extension of Beijing’s global Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

Baluch insurgents have also targeted Chinese nationals associated with CPEC projects, killing several of them since the two countries launched the major program a decade ago.

Source : VOA News