Heavily-armed militants attacked a Pakistan Air Force training base in Punjab province early Saturday, damaging three grounded aircraft, the army said, a day after 15 soldiers were killed in two separate terror strikes.

In a statement, the Pakistan Army said that the Mianwali Training Air Base of Pakistan Air Force was attacked by terrorists but soldiers foiled it by killing three of the attackers and cornering three others.

“However, during the attack, some damage to three already grounded aircraft and a fuel bowser also occurred,” the statement said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The army said that three terrorists were “neutralised while entering the base while the remaining three terrorists have been cornered/isolated due to timely and effective response by the troops”.

A comprehensive joint clearance and combing operation is in the final stages to completely clear the area, it said.

“Pakistan Armed Forces remain committed to eliminating the menace of terrorism from the country at all costs,” the army said.

The attack comes hours after a series of terror strikes killed at least 15 soldiers in the restive Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Fourteen Pakistani soldiers were killed on Friday when militants ambushed two vehicles carrying security forces from Pasni to the Ormara area of Gwadar district in the restive south-western Balochistan province.

Friday’s toll is the heaviest suffered by the military in Balochistan province this year where separatists and militants have stepped up their attacks since a ceasefire deal between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistan government ended in November 2022.

Hours before the Gwadar attack, a series of bomb blasts targeting convoys of police and security forces killed six people, including a soldier, and wounded 24 others in the Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Throughout the year, terrorists and separatists have been targeting security forces in Pakistan, mainly troubled Balochistan province. Two soldiers were killed in the Khoro area of Awaran district last Sunday.

In July, 12 soldiers were killed in separate military operations in the Zhob and Sui areas of Balochistan.

Pakistan has been facing a rise in violence in the wake of the Taliban getting power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

According to a Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) report issued in September, Pakistan suffered 99 attacks in August, the highest number in a single month since November 2014. The number of militant attacks in August was the highest tally for monthly strikes in almost nine years.

The Gwadar district has seen the highest number of attacks in recent months and in August separatists belonging to the outlawed Baloch Liberation Army attacked a convoy of 23 Chinese engineers in the port town of Gwadar.

The Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), a think tank, in a report released in October, noted that the security forces lost at least 386 personnel in the first nine months of 2023, marking an eight-year high.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were the primary centres of violence, accounting for nearly 94 per cent of all fatalities and 89 per cent of attacks (including incidents of terrorism and security forces operations) recorded during this period.

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