Six-man seige ends at PNS Mehran

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Troops recaptured Pakistan Navy Station Mehran airbase on Monday after a 16-hour battle with as few as six Taliban gunmen who had launched their brazen attack to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden. The assault casts fresh doubt on the military’s ability to protect its bases following a raid on the army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi in 2009 and is a further embarrassment following the surprise raid by US special forces on the al Qaeda leader’s hideout north of Islamabad on May 2.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said just six militants were believed involved in the attack on the PNS Mehran base in Karachi late on Sunday, destroying or damaging two aircraft and laying siege to a main building in one of the most heavily guarded bases in the country. However, sources in the intelligence agencies told Pakistan Today’s reporter Aamir Majeed that seven terrorists had surrendered to the commandoes and they were taken to an undisclosed location on board an aircraft. At least 11 navy personnel and two Rangers were killed and 20 wounded in the assault that started at 10:30pm on Sunday, according to a navy spokesman said.
Malik said three militants were killed in the gunbattle while the body of a fourth was believed to be buried under the rubble of a collapsed wall. Two suspects were believed to have fled the scene, he added. The Pakistan Taliban, who are allied with al Qaeda, said they had staged the attack to avenge bin Laden’s death. “It was the revenge of martyrdom of Osama bin Laden. It was the proof that we are still united and powerful,” Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. Malik said the militants, aged between 20 and 25, used two ladders to scale the walls of the base and jumped in by cutting barbed wire.
He said the militants had used guns and grenades in their attack on the base, 15 miles from the Masroor Airbase, Pakistan’s largest and a possible depot for nuclear weapons. PNS Mehran is ringed with a concrete wall with about five feet of barbed wire on top. An aircraft, armed with rockets, hangs on show on a stand outside. According to details, the highly-trained assailants entered the base from its eastern side. A suicide bomber first blew himself up, as the others started firing rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) at the US-made PC-3 Orion aircraft and sprayed the navy guards with bullets. Intelligence officials said the terrorists used hand grenades and other sophisticated weapons in the gunbattle.
They said the Karachi Police had arrested three suspects from the surrounding areas of the base for interrogation. Naval Chief Admiral Noman Bashir told reporters that the army and navy commandoes had cleared the base after a carefully planned operation. He confirmed that 11 navy and two Rangers’ officials were killed in the operation, while 14 officials had been injured. He said two PC-3 Orion aircrafts had been damaged in the attack.
The navy chief said the terrorist were well-trained and equipped with modern weapons. “The terrorist fired six RPGs and shot at naval assets using machine guns,” he said. He also confirmed that some terrorists had fled the base the same way they entered. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, meanwhile, told reporters that no terrorist was arrested in the operation. “There is a possibility that two of the terrorists managed to flee,” he said, adding that “two suicide bombers might be present in the city and might attempt to hit some other target”.
He said the attackers entered the facility by cutting through the barbed wire placed along the wall bordering the Malir River and took positions in the hangars where PC-3 Orion aircrafts were stationed. Malik praised Lieutenant Yasir Abbas for immediately responding to the situation and sacrificing his life to save several aircraft from being destroyed. Malik said that 17 foreigners, 11 of them Chinese maintenance workers, had been safely moved from the base.
“There were 17 foreigners and I want to make it clear that no one was taken hostage,” he said. “They were shifted from the base. They included 11 Chinese. All our guests are safe,” he said. A US embassy spokesman in Islamabad said six American contractors had also been on the base providing maintenance support for navy aircraft. He said all Americans had been accounted for, AFP reported. The US embassy strongly condemned the attack on PNS Mehran in Karachi.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this heinous attack. We grieve with the people of Pakistan and recognise and deeply appreciate the service and sacrifices of their brave armed forces,” it said in a statement. Security experts have meanwhile expressed deep concern at the incident. Talking to Pakistan Today’s reporter Tariq Habib, senior defence analyst Gen (r) Talat Hussain said the attack on one of the country’s most important military establishments indicated the involvement of some insiders in the assault. “How is it possible that a handful of fully-armed terrorists managed to enter a sensitive location without getting noticed and then faced army and navy commandoes for more than 16 hours?” he questioned.

3 COMMENTS

  1. "Commandos"- 16 hour battle to eliminate 4 terrorists??? reminds me of a joke: HOW MANY SHARP SHOOTERS DOES IT TAKE TO EXECUTE THE DICTATOR MUSSOLINI ? ANSWER 7000 [ in 16 hours of shooting i may add]

  2. When the army, airforce, and navy's attention is diverted to running petrol pumps, marriage halls, retail stores, housing colonies,golf clubs, fertilizers, sugar plants, universities, colleges, schools etc, its main job is liable to suffer and this is exactly what has happened. The sterile space surrounding military bases has disappeared and in its place have mushroomed real estate development projects like housing and retail stores. The casualty is security and this is exactly what has happened. Those who allowed houses to be built around GHQ or PNS Mehran, Faisal Base, Lahore Airport are the real culprits.

  3. The episode is sad and speaks volume on our security lapse, though the Navy doesn't admit this. If 2 Orions have been destroyed, how could the mission was completed successfully by the naval commandos. The terrorists killed the naval officer even before he could do anything else. So who saved what?
    This is a sad day for us.

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