Naval air base siege ends
* Commandos regain control of PNS Mehran after 16-hour gunfight
* 10 security officials martyred, 15 injured
* Four terrorists killed, two escape g Two P-3C Orion aircraft destroyed
* 11 Chinese and six Americans engineers rescued
* Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claims responsibility for attack
KARACHI: Security forces regained control of Pakistan Navy’s airbase PNS Mehran at least 16 hours after a group of heavily armed terrorists sneaked into the naval facility, killing 10 personnel and wounding 15 others.
The terrorists, who laid siege to the naval base, fought a pitched gunbattle with the security forces that started after 10:30 pm on Sunday and continued until mid-Monday.
The attackers also destroyed two US-built P-3C Orion aircraft worth $36 million each and set off explosions in some sensitive depots inside the base from which smoke billowed up the whole Sunday night.
“We have cleared the base. The operation is over and the base is now under our control,” Pakistan Navy’s spokesman Commodore Irfanul Haq said.
According to Interior Minister Rehman Malik, four to six Taliban terrorists, aging between 22 to 25 years, had entered the naval air base in Karachi on Sunday night from three points using two ladders and cutters. “There are believed to have been four to six terrorists. Four are confirmed dead. Two are suspected to have run away,” he said, adding that one of the attackers was believed to have blown himself up.
Nevertheless, sources contradicted Malik’s version, and maintained, “All the four terrorists were killed. None of them managed to flee.” The sources said that two of them were gunned down during an exchange of fire while the two others blew themselves up.
Malik said the terrorists triggered a series of explosions and destroyed two surveillance aircraft P-3C Orion. Commodore Haq said the attackers, who climbed over the wall into the base, had besieged the base’s hangar areas where naval jets were parked, adding that naval commandos managed to save other aircraft parked there.
Ten security personnel, including one navy officer, three navy firemen, three navy commandos, a sailor and two paramilitary soldiers, embraced martyrdom, Malik told a press briefing at the Sindh Chief Minister’s House on Monday after the operation.
The minister further said that 17 foreigners, including 11 Chinese and 6 Americans, were rescued by naval commandos. The foreigners were there to give training to naval personnel about Orion planes.
Rockets, LMGs, machine guns, hand grenades and other sophisticated weapons were believed to be in possession of the terrorists.
The sources said the four attackers, who had entered the base from Malir riverbed, gave tough time to security personnel. Reportedly, navy and army commandos engaged the terrorists in a gunfight while rangers officials stood at the outer cordon to prevent their escape. After the last terrorist blew himself up at around 9am, security forces made a thorough search of the area. Heavy contingents of police rushed to the spot but were not allowed to enter the base by naval authorities. Mediamen and rescuers were also kept outside.
Banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed the responsibility for the attack.
“It was revenge for the May 2 American raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden,” Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan told a foreign news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location. Police surgeon Hamid Pedhiar, who carried out autopsies on the four terrorists’ bodies, said the bodies of two attackers, who detonated their suicide vests, were mutilated and beyond identification.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has convened a meeting of Defence Committee of the Cabinet on May 25 to review and assess national security in the aftermath of present challenges posed by the acts of terrorism. staff report/agencies