After an 18-hour tense standoff, elite commandos of the Pakistan Army stormed a building at the military’s headquarters early on Sunday, freeing as many as 39 people who had been taken hostage by militants during an audacious attack the previous day.

Three other hostages and four militants were killed, while one militant, described as the “ringleader” was captured alive, the military said.

Two Special Services Group commandos were killed in the rescue operation, while six soldiers died in a gun battle with the militants as the attack began on Saturday.

The military, caught unawares by the attack at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, which was thought to be one of the best-guarded places in the country and a symbol of the Pakistan Army’s power, recovered on Sunday to declare that it had carried out a “successful” operation.

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