Pakistani troops kill 9 militants and foil an attack on an airbase in eastern Punjab province

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's military said it foiled an attack by militants on a training air base in eastern Punjab province early Saturday, killing all nine assailants.

The troops' “swift and effective response” thwarted the attack at Mianwali Training Air Base, keeping its personnel and assets safe, a military statement said, though three grounded aircraft were damaged and a fuel tanker destroyed in the fighting.

The troops killed three attackers while they were entering the base, and another three were cornered and shot dead in an exchange of fire. The military said that the remaining three attackers who were hiding were killed during an operation to clear the area of militants.

The attack comes a day after an ambush on a military convoy killed 14 soldiers in southwest Baluchistan province. Also on Friday, a bomb and gun attack on a vehicle carrying police left five dead and more than 20 wounded.

No group has immediately claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack on the air base, but the suspicion is likely to fall on the Pakistani Taliban, who have stepped up attacks on security forces since 2022. Authorities say the insurgents have become emboldened while living openly in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover of that country in 2021.

Pakistan’s army carried out massive operations against militants in the former tribal regions along the Afghan border after an army-run school was attacked by militants in 2014, killing more than 150 people, mostly children.

All seven tribal regions, which have served as safe haven for militants for decades, have been converted into fully controlled districts in recent years, and the army announced it had cleared the region of local and foreign militants. However, occasional attacks have continued, raising concerns that the local Taliban, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, are regrouping.

The TTP, or the Pakistani Taliban, is allied with the Afghan Taliban, a separate group that seized power in Afghanistan in 2021 as the United States and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout.


Associated Press writer Asim Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan, contributed to this report.