A day after a brazen assault at Pakistan Air Force’s largest base was repulsed by security forces, Interior Minister Rehman Malik claimed that four of the nine militants killed in the attack have been identified.
Meanwhile, a second soldier died of injuries sustained in the attack, raising the overall death toll to 11.
‘Not a security lapse’
The attack at PAF Base Minhas was not a security lapse, Malik told a news conference on Friday.
The interior ministry issued warnings regarding a possible attack at air force installations in advance, and as a result of this intelligence-sharing, PAF personnel were able to foil this attempt, Malik said.
He said four of the nine attackers killed during the operation have been identified, and added that the attack could be traced back to North and South Waziristan agencies.
In an attempt to dispel international concerns, Malik insisted that nuclear assets of the country “are fully secured.”
“If we can develop nuclear assets, we know how to protect them,” the minister said, adding that a similar propaganda was unleashed when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto launched the nuclear programme back in the 70s.
Another soldier dies
PAF spokesman Tariq Mahmood told AFP that a second soldier died of his injuries from the assault in a hospital on Friday morning.
According to a PAF press release, Sepoy Muhammad Iqbal had accidentally fallen off a truck when the security personnel were rushing to counter the militants.
Air chief visits Kamra
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt visited the Minhas airbase on Friday and was briefed about the sequence of operations against the militants.
Base Commander Air Commodore Muhammad Azam, who was injured during this operation, also accompanied him during the visit.
Addressing a joint gathering of the base personnel and army troops deployed at the base, the air chief said: “We must understand and realise that we are in a state of war, that too against a hidden enemy. These cowardly attacks cannot weaken our resolve to defend our motherland.”
The air chief attended the funeral parade of Sepoy Muhammad Iqbal. He also visited the PAF Hospital Kamra to enquire about the health of three security officials who received injuries from the detonation of suicide jacket during the operation. All three were discharged Friday evening, a press release said.
Nine heavily-armed militants dressed in military fatigues and armed with rocket-propelled grenades and suicide vests stormed the PAF base on Thursday, sparking heavy clashes that killed one security official and nine attackers at the base, which is a vital installation located in Kamra, outside Attock.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan promptly claimed responsibility for what was the worst attack on a military base for more than a year.
PAF Minhas has been attacked twice before, but on previous occasions the militants had not managed to penetrate the compound.
(With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2012.
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