Two of the attackers managed to infiltrate the heavily fortified compound in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, and troops were trying to flush them out hours after the initial assault, an intelligence official said. Four gunshots were heard from inside the compound — long after an Army spokesman said the situation was under control.

A team of gunmen wearing military uniforms and wielding assault rifles and grenades attacked Pakistan’s Army headquarters on Saturday, sparking a ferocious gunbattle outside the capital that left four of the assailants and eight soldiers dead, authorities said.

Two of the attackers managed to infiltrate the heavily fortified compound in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, and troops were trying to flush them out hours after the initial assault, an intelligence official said. An Associated Press reporter at the scene heard four gunshots from inside the compound — long after an Army spokesman said the situation was under control.

The audacious assault was the third major militant attack in Pakistan in a week and came as the government said it was planning an imminent offensive against Islamist militants in their strongholds in the rugged mountains along the border with Afghanistan.

It showed that the militants retain the ability to strike at the very heart of Pakistan’s security apparatus despite recent military operations against their forces and the killing of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a CIA drone attack in August.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas initially said troops had killed all four attackers, ending the assault. But at least two more gunmen had slipped into the headquarters compound and eluded security forces for several hours, according to an intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Troops were closing in on the men and trying to capture or kill them, the official said. The fighting killed eight soldiers, he said.

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