At least nine men, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, have stormed an air force base in Kamra, northwest of the Pakistani capital, killing five soldiers, security officials say.
Eight of the attackers were killed, a military spokesperson said, after the assault at the Minhas Airbase led to a fierce firefight that lasted several hours. The ninth attacker was killed when he exploded his suicide vest outside the perimeter of the base, the military said.
Commandos were called in to aid in the defence of the base, and police armoured personnel carriers were also involved in the operation to secure the facility.
Some of attackers detonated their explosive vests, as they approached aircraft hangars just before dawn on Thursday. The initial assault prompted other attackers to fire rocket-propelled grenades from outside the base's walls, an air force spokesman told Reuters news agency.
Base commander Air Commodore Muhammad Azam was wounded in the shoulder.
Among the dead were three base security personnel and two regular airmen.
At least one of the rockets hit a hangar holding a number of aircraft. The rocket pierced the hangar wall, and shrapnel from the explosion damaged one of the aircraft parked inside.
After the rocket barrage, the attackers, some of whom were disguised in security forces' uniforms, scaled the wall surrounding the airbase.
Guards inside the base then opened fire on the militants, and an intense firefight ensued.
Security forces, backed by a team of elite commandos, fought the militants for two hours and were finally able to retake the base, the air force said.
The Minhas Airbase, 75 km northwest of Islamabad, is adjacent to the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, a major air force research and development centre. Pakistan manufactures JF-17 fighter planes, jointly developed with China, at the site.
Several squadrons of fighter jets, including F-16s, and surveillance planes are believed to be based at Minhas.
The air force said that one aircraft had been damaged in the attack. A spokesman also said that the base did not house any nuclear weapons.
All Pakistan's airbases have been placed on high alert following the attack, and facilities in Kamra have been cordoned off.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, the Reuters news agency reported.
"We are proud of this operation. Our leadership had decided to attack Kamra base a long time ago," Ahsanullah Ahsan, a TTP spokesman, said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
The attack comes amid speculation that Pakistan could launch an operation against militants in the tribal district of North Waziristan.
The Kamra base, between the capital and the main northwestern city of Peshawar, has previously been targeted in 2007 and 2009..
Last year, six Taliban gunmen attacked a naval airbase in Pakistan's largest city Karachi to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden. At least 10 military personnel were killed and 20 wounded in the 16-hour assault.
Meanwhile, at least twenty two people were killed when three passenger buses were targeted in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday.
In another incident six Pakistani citizens were injured in unprovoked firing and mortar shelling by Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) at Sialkot working boundary here on Thursday night, Geo News reported.