The Sunday night attack on a naval base in the port city of Karachi is one of the worst attacks in the insurgency-hit country as the heavily-armed militants attacked the forces`assets. Officials said that the militants fired rocket propelled grenades to damage and destroy several warplanes. These included the Pakistan navy`s premier anti-submarine attack jet, the US made P-3C Orion.
Army commandos cornered a team of terrorists in a naval base on Monday after the insurgents raided the complex the night before, destroying two US-supplied surveillance aircraft and killing at least 13 security officers, a navy spokesman said.
Between 10 and 15 insurgents armed with grenades, rockets and automatic weapons stormed PNS Mehran late on Sunday before splitting into smaller groups, setting off explosions and hiding in the sprawling facility. The operation has ended but security officials are searching terrorists in the building.
The raid was one of the most audacious in years of militant violence in Pakistan. The insurgent s ability to penetrate the high-security facility raised the possibility that they had inside help.
At least 11 navy and two rangers personnel were killed, while 14 security officials were wounded, he said, adding that it was unclear how many militant casualties there were.
This is the fourth major attack the group has claimed since the Bin Laden killing, including a car bombing that slightly injured American consulate workers in Peshawar and a twin-suicide attack that killed around 90 Pakistani paramilitary police recruits.
The raid began with at least three loud explosions, which were heard by people who live around the naval air station. It was unclear what caused the explosions, but they set off raging fires that could be seen from far in the distance. The media teams outside the base heard at least six other explosions and sporadic gunfire.
Authorities sent in several dozen navy and police commandos to battle the attackers, who responded with gunfire and grenades. At least two P-3C Orions, maritime surveillance aircraft given to Pakistan by the US, were destroyed, he said.
The United States handed over two Orions to the Pakistan Navy at a ceremony at the base in June 2010 attended by 250 Pakistani and American officials. By late 2012, Pakistan would have eight of the planes.
At least one media report said a team of American technicians were working on the aircraft at the time of the strike, but a US Embassy spokesman said no American was on the base. He also stated there were no foreigners inside the base.
Meanwhile, the naval chief, Noman Bashir, has called a high level meeting to discuss the situation.
The Taliban have been quick to claim the assault on Pakistani Naval Station Mehran in Karachi. Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan has contacted several news organizations, and claimed 22 well-equipped fighters have executed the assault.
“It was the revenge of martyrdom of Osama bin Laden. It was the proof that we are still united and powerful,” Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Ihsan said that the team of militants they sent into Karachi`s PNS Mehran naval base night had enough supplies to survive a three-day siege.
Ihsan`statement, that “we are still united,” is particularly interesting. Is he saying that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the umbrella Taliban group in the norhwest, is still United? Or is he referring to the wider terrorists movement in Pakistan– al Qadeda, the Taliban, Lashkar e Jhangvi, Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Mohammad, Harkat ul Jihad i Islami and other groups?
Some analysts described the navy base attack similar to the 2008 Mumbai style attack, which had killed nearly 170 people. Pakistani militant group “Lashkar-e-Tayeba” was blamed for the Mumbai attacks.
Few more attacks were also carried out by Pakistani Taliban for Osama’s death, raising fear for more such attacks in the future. The Taliban, whose suicide network is still functioning in North Waziristan tribal region, are posing challenge to the Pakistani security agencies.
Pakistani media Monday pointed out to weaknesses in the country ‘s intelligence system and their failure to get information about the Taliban network. It is time for more vigilance and improvement in the security system to check the militants before they strike.