PESHAWAR/LAHORE: Military jets killed 16 suspected militants and injured several others in bombing raids near the Afghan border on Saturday and police arrested dozens of people, the day after Taliban militants killed 29 people in an attack on an air force camp near Peshawar city. The attack on the PAF camp on Friday was the deadliest ever militant attack on a military installation and is likely to undermine already rocky ties with Afghanistan.

Hours after the attack, Pakistan’s military spokesman pointedly noted that communications intercepts showed the Pakistani Taliban suicide raiders were being directed by handlers in Afghanistan.

Saturday’s air force raids targeted militant bases in the Tirah Valley, which straddles the Afghan border and is a main smuggling route between the two countries, two Pakistani security officials said. “All those killed in the bombing were Pakistani militants,” said one security official in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Four hideouts of the militants were also demolished in the bombardment, official sources said.

The Tirah Valley is located in Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) of Pakistan, while its smaller part straddles the border to the north lying in Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. The strikes were carried out at Rajgaal, Tor Sapar, Sattar kaley Nari-nao and Murga, the far-flung areas of Tirah valley that fall in Khyber Agency, to target Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistani (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Islam militants.

On Friday, 14 gunmen stormed the Badaber air force camp, about 10 km south of Peshawar city in an attack a TTP spokesman said was retaliation for bombing raids on their bases along the Afghan border. Shafqat Malik, head of the Peshawar bomb squad, said the attackers carried enough firepower to occupy the base, but that some of their weapons had malfunctioned. “Their mission was occupation of the air base,” he said. The Badaber facility was once an operational base but now is being used as a residential camp by the air force, which has played a key role in ripping up the TTP and its allies.

Peshawar police said they picked up around 50 residents living near the base on suspicion of helping the militants organise and carry out the attack.

“At least 22 suspects including eight Afghan nationals have been detained from different parts of the city since Friday after the attack, and are being thoroughly interrogated,” a senior local police official said Saturday as the police swoop was going on. He said some of the suspects were set free after an initial interrogation while others, including the eight Afghans, are still in custody.

A security official said evidence was still being collected from the site of the attack to find more clues about how the incident happened and how the attackers entered the camp. The insurgents entered the residential compound at the base, attacking a mosque where they killed 16 air force personnel as they were about to offer dawn prayers. Another seven air force personnel were also killed in a barrack adjacent to mosque. Three from the army and three civilians were also killed.

Pakistan launched an offensive to dislodge Pakistani Taliban from their northwestern stronghold of North Waziristan in 2014 and there has been fighting in various places, including the Tirah Valley, since then.

For years Pakistan and Afghanistan have traded accusations of not doing enough to stamp out insurgents on either side of their long, porous border. Last month, Afghanistan blamed Pakistan for not doing enough to counter militants who carried out a series of attacks in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Pakistan, on its part, accuses Afghanistan of harboring TTP, which have shifted to Afghanistan after they were uprooted by Pakistani forces from Fata.

The country has been demanding Afghanistan hand over hardline cleric Fazlullah, head of the TTP, who is hiding in eastern Afghanistan. After the air base attack, top Pakistan military spokesman on Friday said that they have voice recordings showing that the attacks were planned, launched and executed by handlers in Afghanistan.