Terrorist seige of Pak naval airbase continues for 12 hours

Updated - August 21, 2016 07:53 pm IST

Published - May 23, 2011 12:16 am IST - ISLAMABAD

Pakistani army commandos drive through the main gate of a naval aviation base following an attack by militants in Karachi, Pakistan on Monday.

Pakistani army commandos drive through the main gate of a naval aviation base following an attack by militants in Karachi, Pakistan on Monday.

Terrorists continued to engage elite forces of the Pakistan armed services in a pitched gun-battle at the naval airbase, PNS Mehran, in Karachi on Monday morning; 12 hours after they entered the high-security premises and set off multiple explosions.

Eight security personnel were reported dead in the operation to flush out the terrorists who, according to officials, were holed up in a three-storeyed office block of the premises. Though there was no confirmation of a hostage situation, the duration of the siege gave rise to speculation of such a possibility.

Since this facility is used for training officers from overseas, the possibility of foreigners being held captive was being talked about by the media but again there was no confirmation. Reporters at the spot said they saw people with “Chinese-like features” being taken out of the facility soon after the attack started; triggering speculation of some being held hostage inside.

According to federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik, terrorists entered the high-security naval airbase from three directions and carried out simultaneous attacks on different targets. Two PC-3 Orion aircraft – which the Pakistan Navy is said to have acquired from the U.S. just a year ago -- were destroyed in the attack.

Initial reports suggested that a dozen terrorists entered the facility and set off the first explosion around 10-30 p.m. The fires triggered by the explosions raged well past midnight. At least a dozen explosions were heard inside the fortified premises but it was not clear if they were triggered by the terrorists or were a case of the fire setting of combustible material that can be found aplenty in any aviation facility.

Punctuated with spells of silence, the gun battle between the terrorists and security personnel – including SSG commandos and Pakistan Marines – continued through the night and no civilian force was allowed access into Pakistan Navy’s first Naval Air Station. Ambulances which rushed to the spot were also kept waiting outside first and allowed in midway between the operation.

With the area being a restricted one, no media was allowed in and the first confirmation of this being a terrorist strike came from Mr. Malik around midnight. Since the naval facility is adjacent to the Faisal base of the Air Force, there was confusion initially about which facility had been attacked.

This is the third time that the Pakistan Navy has come under attack over the past month in Karachi alone; the earlier two being on buses ferrying naval personnel to work. Given these earlier attacks on the Navy, questions were being asked in the media and on blogosphere about security at such facilities. One tweet on the micro-blog Twitter said: “Gazillions spent, security lapses continue. Might as well divert the funds to development and human servicing.”

PTI adds

Fifteen hours after brazenly storming into Pakistan navy’s key Mehran airbase in the heart of the port city of Karachi, heavily-armed Taliban militants were still holding onto parts of the base after destroying two US-made surveillance aircraft and killing 13 security personnel.

Pakistan army’s elite Special Service Group and naval commandos backed by helicopters were hunting down a group of 15-20 militants, who stormed into the sprawling naval complex last night in the worst assault on a military base since the Army Headquarters was besieged in October 2009 in Rawalpindi.

The terrorists in a well coordinated attack sneaked into the complex, reportedly housing US-acquired P-3C Orions, long-range maritime reconnaissance planes and Harpoon anti-ship missiles and were locked in continuing gun battle with the security forces.

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