Terror siege at Pakistan military base ends, 14 deadMay 23rd, 2011 - 9:27 pm ICT by IANS
Karachi, May 23 (IANS) A 15-hour terror siege of a key military base in this Pakistani port city ended Monday afternoon with 14 people, including four terrorists, killed in fierce gun battles and the more than 20 blasts that rocked the sprawling complex.
The 11 Chinese and six Americans working at the PNS Mehran naval base were safe, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said after curtains came down on the brazen terror strike — the worst on a Pakistani military set up.
The Pakistani Taliban, which has vowed to avenge America’s killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden May 2, claimed responsibility.
Malik said the terror attack had been put down “successfully” and that the attackers had killed 10 security personnel and firemen. A naval and an air force base are part of the heavily fortified complex.
The attackers targeted P-3C Orion aircraft, which are used for surveillance, destroying two of them. But acting quickly, Pakistan Rangers towed away other Orion aircraft even as gun battles raged.
A furious Malik declared the Pakistani Taliban “an enemy of Pakistan”.
Indian experts said the coordinated attack by heavily armed terrorists — the attackers had rocket launchers — once again exposed the grave dangers the increasingly unstable Pakistan faced.
Arun Bhagat, former head of India’s internal spy wing Intelligence Bureau, likened the mayhem to the ones in Mumbai in 2008 and in New York in 2001.
“It would rank as one of the major strikes in the world,” Bhagat told IANS. “Attacking a military establishment, where one expects 100 percent security even in peacetime, is absurd.”
Malik said bodies of three terrorists had been recovered. The head of a terrorist, presumed to be a suicide bomber, was found. Fifteen people were injured in the mayhem that began at 10.30 p.m. Sunday.
Calling it a “pre-planned” operation at one of Pakistan’s biggest military bases, he said a high alert had been issued across the country amid fears of more attacks from Islamists angered by Osama’s killing.
Narrating the sequence of events, the minister said the attackers sneaked into the heavily guarded complex using two ladders and after cutting the barbed wire fencing on the high compound walls.
They entered the complex without being spotted by surveillance cameras, indicating they were aware of the layout of the complex.
Over 20 explosions shook the fortified facility after the terrorists entered Sunday night. Four equally powerful blasts were heard at the nearby air force base. Thick smoke billowed from the area.
Fierce gunfights raged through the night as reinforcements of security forces rushed to the base. Malik himself reached the spot just before dawn.
It was only at Monday afternoon when authorities claimed the terrorists had been killed. A few were reportedly overpowered.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack.
Pakistan has been witnessing a series of terror attacks since Osama’s killing.
In the worst such strike, on May 13, Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers blew themselves up near a paramilitary training centre in Charsadda in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing over 80 newly-trained personnel.
Last week, a Saudi consulate official was gunned down in Karachi.
Sunday night’s siege was also the third militant attack on the navy in Karachi in a month.
At least five people were killed and 18 injured in a bombing of a Pakistan Navy bus here April 28, two days after twin blasts blew up two navy buses killing four people.
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