Peshawar: Five people have been killed and over 40 injured in rocket attacks at the Peshawar airport and its surrounding areas in Pakistan. Five militants, who had attempted to storm the airport after the rocket strikes, were killed.
According to reports, five rockets were fired at the Bacha Khan International Airport at around 8:30 pm on Saturday. While three of the rockets landed inside the airport but did not
cause any major damage, two more hit nearby residential areas. Officials said that the rockets were fired from a nearby village named Abdra.
The militants, who were armed with assault rifles and wearing suicide vests,
tried to enter the airport but the attempt was
foiled by Pakistani security forces. A gunbattle broke out between security forces and militants after the rocket attack, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the capital of which is Peshawar.
"No terrorist has been able to penetrate inside (the air field)," Group Captain Tariq Mahmood, a spokesman for the Pakistan Air Force, said in a statement. "Security forces were fully alert and are in control of the situation."
Mr Mahmood added there had been no casualties among the Pakistan Air Force or damage to equipment during the incident.
Pakistani television footage showed a vehicle with a smashed windscreen, another damaged car, bushes on fire and what appeared to be a large breach in a wall.
Meanwhile, the injured, four of them critical, have been shifted to hospitals. Most of the victims include children, women and senior citizens. "An emergency has been declared in the hospital and all the surgeons have been called," said Umar Ayub, chief executive of the Khyber Teaching Hospital Peshawar. "All of them suffered bullet injuries and some of the injured are in critical condition."
Pervez George, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, confirmed that the airport had been closed and flights cancelled, but said there had been no damage to the airport building or terminals.
"If needed, we will divert incoming flights to Islamabad and (the eastern city of) Lahore," he told AFP
"The airport is closed and the lights have been turned off," he added.
Pakistan Army has moved in to secure the location of the attack. Troops are conducting a search operation to ascertain if any militants have entered the airport.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the group told reporters in the country's northwest that the target of the attackers was the Pakistan Air Force airbase.
Peshawar, located on the edge of the country's tribal region - the major sanctuary for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants - has witnessed many bomb attacks and shootings in recent years, but residents said it was the first time such a large attack had been staged on the airport.
Pakistani Islamist militants have carried out previous attacks on military air bases in the nuclear-armed country.
In August, 11 people were killed when heavily armed militants dressed in fatigues and wearing suicide vests stormed an air force base in the northwestern town of Kamra.
In May 2011, it took 17 hours to quell an attack on an air base in Karachi claimed by the Taliban, piling embarrassment on the armed forces just three weeks after US troops killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Pakistan says more than 35,000 people have been killed as a result of terrorism in the country since the 9/11 attacks on the United States and that its forces have for years been fighting home-grown militants in the northwest.
(With inputs from Agencies)
Story first published:
December 15, 2012 21:42 IST