The official complaint lodged on Tuesday by the Pakistan Navy regarding the assault on its airbase in Karachi, PNS Mehran, has cited “10-12” assailants being involved in the attack – contradicting categorical assertions by the interior minister that six terrorists launched the daring raid.
There are also some other discrepancies in the complaint and some facts and figures quoted on Monday regarding the storming of Pakistan’s largest naval airbase, which took security forces 17 hours to clear, and resulted in the destruction of two navy aircraft – P-3C Orions.
According to Interior Minister Rehman Malik, 10 security personnel were killed in the raid, which resulted in the death of four terrorists, while two were said to have escaped.
However, in the First Information Report (FIR) lodged by Pakistan Navy at the Sharae Faisal police station, the complainant, Lt Mohammad Irfan, states that at least 10 to 12 men armed with rocket launchers, hand grenades and other sophisticated weaponry entered the base from its rear wall.
“We wrote whatever they told us to in the FIR,” Sharae Faisal DSP Ramzan Gopang told The Express Tribune. “They said that the terrorists entered by crossing the walls but didn’t explain if they climbed over the walls or broke them down.”
Quoting the FIR, the officer said that the complainant’s statement said: “I was on duty when an official at the nearest tower informed me through the wireless handset that about ten to twelve persons had entered the base, firing rocket launchers and hurling hand grenades at the aircraft and had resorted to intense firing. Upon hearing this, I ordered him to retaliate and informed the high ups and asked different units for help.”
DSP Gopang said that the complainant further said that the gun battle continued after the security forces arrived, lasting till Monday morning. He added that the officials later recovered four bodies. “Three out of the four bodies were of those attackers who blew themselves up using their suicide vests.”
“One of the bodies was bullet-riddled, which made it seem like maybe he was not able to put on his suicide vest.”
However, post-mortem reports from Civil Hospital Karachi stated that two bodies were mutilated, perhaps due to bombs, while the other two were bullet-riddled, appearing to have been shot by sub-machine guns.
The complainant further said in his statement that, while the remaining terrorists had managed to escape, security personnel had been able to recover one suicide vest, ten hand grenades, one rocket launcher and four Kalashnikovs assault rifles.
Investigators believe that the absconders may retaliate. “Judging by my experience, I believe they were the Taliban belonging to the tribal areas,” a senior investigation officer told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity. “Since I deal with terrorists, I know they could prove more dangerous and possibly also retaliate.”
He, however, said there is good coordination between the police officials and the intelligence agencies and the absconding terrorists involved in the attack would soon be arrested.
The FIR, No 447/11, was registered under sections 302, 324, 427, 353, 121/34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and ¾ of the Explosive Act and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Prime minister’s visit
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has given Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir the charge of conducting the initial investigation of the terrorist attack.
The inquiry committee, according to official sources, will be headed by a rear admiral.
Talking to the media in Karachi, the prime minister praised the gallantry and valour of the security forces and stressed that the sacrifices of the security personnel killed in the terrorist attack would not be forgotten.
Earlier, the prime minister visited PNS Mehran where the naval chief briefed him on the operation against the terrorists.
The prime minister said that the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, which will meet on May 25, will also deliberate on the terrorist attack, adding that he would comment in detail on the incident after the meeting.
Gilani then visited PNS Shifa and PNS Rahat, where the injured soldiers are being treated.
The prime minister has directed the concerned authorities to revisit, improve and upgrade security at all defence installations.
“There is a need to upgrade security measures keeping in view the intentions of the terrorists,” he said during his visit to the PNS Mehran. “Whatever possible action is required should be taken and the government will extend all support,” he stated.
The prime minister thanked the law-enforcers for extending support to the Navy and said this had re-affirmed the commitment and determination on their part to deal with the hidden enemies of the country with iron fists.
Meanwhile, Lt Yasir Abbas was laid to rest with a full military honour at the Askari 10 graveyard in the presence of his family members, along with the civil and military representatives in Lahore on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Gilani has recommended Lt Yasir for the Nishan-e-Haider, Pakistan’s highest military honour, and later forwarded the nomination to President Asif Ali Zardari. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM agencies)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2011.