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10 militants dead in attacks on air force bases in Pakistan’s Quetta 13 security forces wounded

QUETTA, Pakistan, Aug 15, (RTRS): Ten Taleban-linked militants were killed and 13 members of the Pakistani security forces were wounded in attacks on two air force bases in the strategic west Pakistan city of Quetta on Thursday, officials said. While the attackers did not get inside either facility, the raids marked the third time since June Pakistani airports had been targeted and will raise more questions about how secure such facilities are.

Pakistan’s military has been fighting an offensive against the Taleban insurgency in the remote, largely lawless region of North Waziristan on the Afghanistan border since June. A wing of the Pakistani Taleban said they had carried out Thursday night’s raids in response to that offensive. “It is a revenge for the army’s killing of innocent people in North and South Waziristan,” said Ghalib Mehsud, who said he was a commander and spokesman for the Fidayeen Islam, a Taleban wing responsible for training suicide bombers. “There will be more attacks in coming days.”

The military says hundreds of militants have been killed during the much-anticipated offensive, but residents say some civilians have also died in frequent air raids. Access to North Waziristan is tightly controlled and it is impossible to verify the military’s casualty figures. Police said some of the attackers in Thursday night’s raids were killed at the Samungli air force base, which shares a runway with the civilian airport in Quetta.

The city has long been used as a base by the Afghan and Pakistani Taleban. More were killed at Khalid air force base, said provincial Inspector General, Muhammad Amlish. Samungli is on the western edge of Quetta and Khalid is to the north. Residents near the Samungli base said they heard at least eight blasts and gunfire that continued for around half an hour, as well as helicopters buzzing overhead. Amlish said the militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and two suicide bombers blew themselves up at Samungli in an effort to get inside. He said residents had also alerted police to a suspect vehicle near the Khalid air base. Four bombs were defused there, said Sarfraz Bugti, home minister in the provincial government of Baluchistan.

In June, Taleban and Uzbek militants killed 30 people at the airport in Karachi, the southern city that is home to 18 million people. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is allied to the Taleban and shares their refuges in North Waziristan. The Karachi attack followed months of faltering peace talks between the government and the Taleban. The Taleban had refused to renounce violence while the talks were underway. Days after the Karachi airport attack, the military launched its long-awaited offensive in North Waziristan, a region considered the Taleban’s major stronghold. Pakistan’s allies, including the United States, had long urged the military to move against Taleban havens there.

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