Pakistan’s military said its forces killed nine armed men who attacked an air force training base on Saturday, with a group affiliated with the Pakistan Taliban claiming responsibility. “All nine terrorists have been sent to hell”, the military said in a statement, adding that its operation had concluded. Three men were killed before they entered the base, and three other attackers had been “cornered/isolated”, the military said earlier. The Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), a newly emerged militant group that is an affiliate of the home-grown Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) movement, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement to media. Armed men stormed the base in the early hours of Saturday morning in the city of Mianwali, in central Punjab province, near the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa border. “The successful operation was launched by security forces to eliminate any potential threat in the surrounding area,” the military said. “Some damage was done to three already phased out non-operational aircraft during the attack,” it added, without elaborating. Analysts say militant groups have become emboldened by the return to power of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan in 2021. Pakistan regularly accuses its neighbour of harbouring militants who plan and launch attacks from Afghan soil, a charge the Taliban government denies. Attacks in Punjab province, however, are rare. The TTP movement shares a common hardline Islamist ideology with their Afghan counterparts. They have largely focused on targeting security forces, with civilians sometimes caught up in the violence. The latest attack comes after 14 troops were killed when their convoy came under assault in Balochistan province and six civilians died when a police van was targeted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, both on Friday. Balochistan is home to a decades-long insurgency by ethnic Baloch guerrillas fighting the government over accusations of exploiting the province’s rich gas and mineral resources.