The attack triggered an hours-long firefight with Pakistani troops at Badaber base, during which an officer and two guards were also killed, officials said. The Pakistani forces said they killed 13 of the attackers but it was unclear how many were involved in the assault.
The attack was a major blow for Pakistan’s military, which stepped up operations against the militants following a horrific Taliban attack last December at a Peshawar school that killed 150 people, mostly children.
The attackers first stormed the guard room of the Badaber base, established in 1960s as an air force facility but mostly used as a residential place for air force employees and officers from Peshawar, according to air force officials.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa said 13 attackers were killed by the security forces. He said the attack was quickly repulsed and that the “bodies of the slain terrorist” were lying on the ground in the compound of base.
Details about how the attackers managed to make their way into the mosque, which was inside the compound walls, and gun down 16 people during prayers were sketchy.
Bajwa said the militants entered the base from different directions in a two-pronged assault — apparently one push targeted the mosque — but that security forces quickly responded.
It was also unclear if any of the attackers got away. An army captain and two guards were also killed, according to Bajwa and a local hospital that received the bodies, and at least 10 soldiers were wounded in the firefight with the militants.
One of the wounded, security official Mohammad Rizwan, said he was coming out of the mosque when suddenly a bullet hit him.
“I fell down and I saw some of the attackers, but I don’t know what happened later, I fell unconscious,” he said.