Islamabad:  A group of terrorists armed with sophisticated weapons and suicide vests on Thursday stormed a key Pakistan Air Force base in Punjab province that is believed to house nuclear weapons, triggering an intense gun battle that left seven attackers and a security personnel dead.

The terrorists, some of whom were reportedly wearing military uniforms, sneaked into Kamra airbase at about 2 am despite a state of high alert at the facility.

The attackers breached at least three barriers and tried to target Saab-2000 surveillance aircraft, news channels reported.

Following a gun battle that lasted over three hours, seven terrorists were gunned down by commandos, a PAF spokesman told the media.

He said eight terrorists were involved in the attack. There was no word on the fate of the remaining attacker.

The spokesman said explosives were strapped to the body of one attacker. He said the attackers were engaged by two teams of commandos.

The spokesman said one security personnel was killed and several others, including base commander Air Commodore Muhammad Azam, were injured.

Azam, who was leading the operations, was hit by a bullet but he is "safe and stable", the spokesman said.

Earlier reports had said two security personnel were killed.

The military's media arm told reporters that the situation at the Kamra airbase was under control and troops were conducting a search operation to ascertain if any more terrorists were inside the complex.

The PAF spokesman said one aircraft was damaged when it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by the attackers. He did not give details of the extent of the damage.

The attack came just two days after Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani reiterated the country's commitment to the war on terrorism.

Amidst speculation about a new campaign against the Taliban in the tribal belt, Kayani said the war on terrorism was Pakistan's "own war and a just war too".

The brazen assault was described by experts as a serious security lapse as The Express Tribune newspaper had reported on August 10 that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan could target PAF facilities in Punjab before Eid-ul-Fitr.

Citing intelligence reports, the daily reported that militants could carry out attacks on the 27th or 28th of the Islamic month of Ramzan or August 16 and 17.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a string of brazen assaults on Pakistan's military installations. In the past, militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban have attacked the army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and a key naval airbase in Karachi.

Several Western media reports in the past have said that nuclear weapons are based at the Kamra complex, which is home to an airbase and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex that assembles JF-17 combat jets and drones.

As troops conducted a search operation within the airbase, residents of nearby areas were told to remain within their homes. Large contingents of police and army soldiers cordoned off the area.

Shortly after the attack began, Geo News channel quoted its sources as saying that the attackers could have had help from elements within the airbase.

The terrorists reportedly entered the airbase from Pind Suleman Makhan, a village adjoining the PAF facility.

The PAF sought help from the army and troops from an elite anti-terrorism commando unit in the garrison city of Rawalpindi were despatched to Kamra.

Witnesses told the media they had heard intense firing and several explosions from within the airbase.

The Kamra complex and its personnel have been targeted by terrorists several times in the past.

On October 23, 2009, seven persons were killed when a suicide bomber struck a check post outside the airbase.

(Agencies)

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