KARACHI: A spokesman for Pakistan's Navy said Monday that the PNS Mehran base in Karachi was back under control, 17 hours after militants attacked with guns, bombs and rockets.
In an ongoing operation at one of Pakistan's main military bases, security forces are engaged in a battle against militants who stormed the base late Sunday night. At least 15 security officials have been killed in the operation that continues on Monday morning.
More than 10 terrorists late Sunday attacked the PNS Mehran base on Shahrah-e-Faisal Road, Karachi. At least 15 people, including Navy and Rangers personnel died in the attack.
Towering flames arose from inside the PNS Mehran compound throughout the night.
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Pakistan Navy official said several terrorists have been killed but did not confirm the number. The bodies have been shifted to an unknown location.
The Pakistan navy has issued an official statement that the operation to kill or capture terrorists who had taken over the compound is over.
Spokesperson added that all the naval assets at PNS Mehran have been secured.
Express 24/7 correspondent Shaheryar Mirza reports that Interior Minister Rehman Malik who was expected to talk to the press, has left the navy base without making any comment.
There were about 30 to 40 journalists gathering outside, with seven satellite dishes attached to their trucks.
Helicopters buzzed overhead and the main road outside was closed to traffic. Moin Babar, 35, a technical engineer, said people were trying to understand how the militants made it inside.
"I heard that 15 went in through a sewer," he said.
Kamran Khalil, 48, a civil engineer, suggested, like many others, a conspiracy. "How can this happen? It's taking them so long to resolve the issue. India or the CIA could have been behind this. They want to show that Pakistan forces are ineffective."
Many in Pakistan were furious with the US operation to kill bin Laden without sharing any intelligence beforehand with Islamabad, which they saw as a severe breach of sovereignty.
"This is all a reaction to American policy in Pakistan," said Atif Ali, a 30-year-old construction worker.
As troops wound down their assault, some Karachi residents said they could not believe security could have been so lax, Reuters reports.
"If these people can just enter a military base like this,then how can any Pakistani feel safe?" asked Mazhar Iqbal, 28, engineering company administrator taking a lunch break in the shade outside the complex where a crowd had gathered.
"The government and the army are just corrupt. We need newleaders with a vision for Pakistan."
Talking to Express 24/7 Brigadier Ghazanfar Ali said that the terrorists had a mechanism in place for targetted attacks on naval assets.
"This attack is possible without inside help, but the possibility cannot be ruled out," he said.
He added that if taken alive, these terrorists can give valuable information on the groups they are affiliated with.
"There agenda is that Pakistan should be destabilizsed. The message being sent out is that Pakistan nuclear assets are not safe" he said.
marvisirmed My blood boils.wnt 2 hold gun now. My ppl, my jawaans-all becoming fodder of...dont U dare defend Taliban & AlQaida
kaalakawaa If you think that the attacks are being carried out by CIA/RAW how would pulling out of the War / ending drones end them?
sharmeenochinoy This is the first time #Taliban have attacked military Aircrafts or hardware in #Pakistan- shift in strategy? #karachiattacks
Tribune reporter Mahnoor Sherazee says the martyred navy officials and injured have been shifted to PNS Shifa and PNS Rahat hospitals. She reports that journalists are not allowed to enter the building.
The operation to regain control of the Karachi naval base assaulted by Taliban militants has been completed after almost 16 hours of fighting with up to 20 assailants holed up in a building, a security official told Reuters from inside the base.
"The operation is over. The main building has been cleared," the official said. "For precaution, we are continuing search around for any more terrorists but the main operation is over."
Talking to Express 24/7, retired Air Commodore Jamal Hussain said security officials will not announce that operation is complete “till they are absolutely certain the compound is secure.”
“Even if they suspect that one militant is at large, they will not announce that it is over,” he said.
Express 24/7 correspondent Mirza says the operation has drawn to a close after 14 hours. One helicopter is still circling the area for surveillance purposes.
The naval officer shot dead at PNS last night was identified as Lt Syed Yaser Abbas, son or (R) Col Syed Jaffar Abbas. His picture can be viewed here.
mirza9 Navy officials that left earlier have come back to the #pnsmehran . BMW with four stars on the license plates - can someone ID?
abidhussayn @Razarumi After attack on CID and Abdullah Shah Ghazi, this was first major incident.
Razarumi #Karachi is the base 4 Al-Qaeda. its operatives & leadership tiers live thr. Causing mayhem in the port city is vital 4 Al-Qaeda
Naval Chief Admiral Nauman Bashir arrives at PNS Mehran base.
Security forces are in the final stage of ending an hours-long siege by Taliban militants of a naval airbase, security officials said on Monday.
"The operation has not finished yet, but is nearing an end,"one security official said. "It's in the final stages."
12: 20 pm
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has arrived at the navy base and will brief the media once he is given details of the operation.
"A major area has been cleared," Malik told reporters. "The sweeping process is continuing."
Express 24/7 correspondent Shaheryar Mirza reports that high ranking navy officials have left the area, an indication that the operation may be over.
Talking to Express 24/7, security analyst Ikram Sehgal said “Today the Pakistan Navy is blind; its eyes and ears are gone,” adding that anti-sub capability, electronic intelligence capability, radar capability are all gone.
“We can equate this situation to 9/11. It is a very grave situation,” said Sehgal, adding that neighbouring countries may be involved in planning this attack.
Talking to Express 24/7, Naval spokesperson Irfanul Haq said the operation is underway and security officials are working hard to minimise casualties and damage to naval assets.
Haq confirmed that 12 navy officials have been martyred and 14 injured
Prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has phoned Navy chief to dicuss the ongoing operation.
Navy official says officials are "taking maximum care" so as to preserve naval assets.
Ambulances and security vehicles are rushing to the navy base once again.
Two firemen have reportedly been killed in the operation.
"A (single-storey) building in the premises is still under their occupation from where they are exchanging fire with our soldiers," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told AFP.
Firefight resumes at navy base after 30-minute pause. Security forces are engaged in operation to capture militants alive. Loud shots heard in the vicinity, indicate heavy battle underway at navy base.
Express 24/7 correspondent Ahmed Jung reports that half of the navy base has been secured by security officials and militants have been restricted to one building.
Navy chief says the operation is "heading in the right direction and the situation will be reverted very soon."
No sounds of gunfire or explosions heard near navy base.
Express 24/7 correspondent Shaheryar Mirza reports taht 30 Frontier Constabulary officials have arrived at the site. About 200 SSG commandos and rangers are deployed as back-up for the operation.
Mirza adds that there is no official word from the armed forces and police and intelligence officials do not have details on the ongoing operation.
The navy base under attack is 15 miles (24 km) from the Masroor Air Base, Pakistan's largest and a possible depot for nuclear weapons.
"They (militants) were carrying guns, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) and hand grenades. They hit the aircraft with an RPG," Navy spokesman Commander Salman Ali said of the militants.
Talking to Express 24/7, defence analyst Lt Gen (R) Talat Masood said that the militants had sent out a clear message to Pakistani security forces.
"They want to weaken the security insitutions one by one," he said, adding that the attack was planned with precision.
"They are growing more and more powerful. The state is getting weaker and more helpless."
Express 24/7 correspondent Shaheryar Mirza reports that sounds of gunfire and explosions have halted, however it is not clear if this signals the end of the operation.
"There is complete silence in the area, but this could be a delaying tactic," said Mirza.
Express 24/7 correspondent Shaheryar Mirza reports that a man has been arrested from the area due to suspicious activity.
The man was reportedly viewing the ongoing operation through binoculars from a high point.
sharmeenochinoy TTP soldier tells me our training is better than your military because v are ready 2 die #karachiattacks #Pakistan
madihariaz Don't want to watch the news, can't stay away either.
Express 24/7 reporter Ahmed Jung confirms that sophisticated LMG rifles, rocket launchers and Russian hand grenades have been used by the militants in the ongoing battle. The terrorists were dressed in black clothes.
Sources say 6 terrorists have been killed, however their bodies have not been dragged out of the base.
Taliban said that the team of militants they sent into Karachi's PNS Mehran naval base Sunday night had enough supplies to survive a three-day siege.
"They have enough ammunition and food and they can fight andsurvive for three days," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters.
Two P3C Orion aircrafts have reportedly been destroyed by militants in the attack.
Express 24/7 reporter Ahmed Jung says 26 have explosions have so far taken place at the navy base in the last 12 hours.
Two helicopters are circling the military base in the ongoing operation, and security forces are trying to capture terrorists alive in order to interrogate them.
"Security forces want to know how the militants could enter a base where security is so strict that not even a camera is allowed inside," says Jung.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the brazen attack on the base by 15-20 gunmen, saying it was to avenge the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, AFP reports.
"It was the revenge of martyrdom of Osama bin Laden. It wasthe proof that we are still united and powerful," Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Navy spokesman confirms five people have been killed in the attack -- four Navy personnel and one Rangers personnel.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has arrived in Karachi.
A few minutes back massive gunfire forced media personnel to lie down on the ground, reports Ahmed Jung. Fire is still erupting from the spot.
The gun battle has lasted 5 hours.
The Shah Faisal colony drain line leads to a small wall, which allows entrance into the base, says Jung. This was the likely route the terrorists took.
An official speaking on condition of anonymity says at least 4-5 terrorists have been shot dead, but the aim of the operation is to catch the militants alive.
Fire has erupted again as fire fighters paused efforts due to an on going gun battle.
Heavy gunfire is ongoing at PNS Mehran, confirms Express 24/7 reporter Ahmed Jung.
Confirmed reports that Lieutenant Yasir and a fireman, Khalilur Rehman have been killed in the line of duty.
The fires on the PAF base have been completely extinguished, confirms Express 24/7 reporter Ahmed Jung.
Shah Faisal number 5 area sewerage line was used to enter PNS Mehran, say sources on-ground.
"They were equipped with sophisticated weapons," navy spokesman Commodore Irfanul Haq told Reuters.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the militants had attacked from the rear of the base. "We have been able to confine them to one building and an operation is underway either to kill or capture them."
The Karachi attack evoked memories of an assault on Pakistan's Army headquarters in the town of Rawalpindi in 2009, and revived concerns that even the most well-guarded installations in the country remain vulnerable.
Terrorists used a sewerage line behind the PNS Mehran to enter the base, unconfirmed reports suggest. Rangers have been deployed at the entrance of the line.
Law enforcement agencies from many towns have been called in to surround the entire base to ensure the terrorists do not escape, confirms Express 24/7 reporter Ahmed Jung.
Ahmed Jung reports that oil tankers exploding due to the fire are the likely cause for the recent blasts on the base.
Emergency services are confirming at least one death in the attack.
It is expected the search operation will continue till daylight as the base is kilometres long.
Director General PR, Pakistan Navy, Irfanul Haq has confirmed two injuries -- one sailor and one officer, both of whom are in critical condition. No foreigner has been killed in the attack, he says. Haq also confirms damage to one P3 Orion aircraft.
Another Navy source say the terrorists stormed the base with rockets, attack the P3 Orion and then snuck in further during the fire caused by the plane. The fire also spread to two other planes in the hangar.
A 10th explosion has been reported on the PAF base by Tribune reporter Faraz Khan.
President Asif Ali Zardari has condemned the attack.
fispahani RT @Ali_Abbas_Zaidi: I repeat: This comes directly from victims. Blood needed in PNS Rahat
OmarWaraich PNS Mehran received two P-3C Orions from the US in June 2010:http://1.usa.gov/mFZ6gK
CID police and Army personnel were inside for an hour, however, CID officials are exiting says Ahmed Jung reporting for Express 24/7.
As yet, only fire brigades have been let inside.
The identities of the alleged four dead in the attack have not been confirmed.
Tribune reporter Faraz Khan reports another blast in the PAF compound.
Pakistan Navy Spokesman confirms there are no casualties and only two people have been injured so far. He has confirmed that the P3 Orion aircraft was attacked.
Navy depot and a godown was attacked as well, say initial reports.
Firing is continuing inside the PAF base.
The fire in the compound has died down substantially.
DG PR Navy Irfanul Haq also confirms two injuries in the attack.
OmarWaraich The fire's wild. Thick plumes of black smoke stretching across the Karachi sky
mosharrafzaidi Not really too interested in empathy from abroad. I am interested in answers from within Pakistan.
SWarisShah People should stop discouraging our army and intelligence and start praying.. they are risking their life for us.
Fire has spread to three locations confirms Ahmed Jung reporting for Express 24/7. Fire is still visible where the terrorists first attacked.
Special forces including Army personnel and CID police have arrived to fight the terrorists inside the base.
Earlier reports that Americans were present when terrorists targeted P3C Orion plane have been refuted by a US Embassy spokesman.
Terrorists entered from the back of the base, say sources. They had information regarding what aircrafts were inside. The attack was well planned.
husainhaqqani R prayers & support for victims of today's tragedy at PNS Mehran. R resolve 2 defeat terrorists must endure
mirza9 If there was no inside help on getting militants inside, they had to be given intel on the plane,location and maintenance schedule. #karachi
cyalm I'd rather have the delusional Rapture folks than the delusional folks here who can't see the enemy within
Terrorists used rockets in the attack confirm reports.
Firing is continuing inside the base sporadically, says Tribune reporter Faraz Khan. However, he says there has been no new blasts as reported elsewhere in the media.
Army commandos are on the spot.
AdilNajam Situation ongoing. Coordinated attacks already being called "Mumbai-style" some suspect there may be hostages...
needroos Respect to all security personnel, military, rangers, police, ambulance and firefighters facing the ongoing #Karachi attack
Sources say that the initial target of the terrorists was the P3C Orion plane. The plane has reportedly been destroyed.
"This plane acts as the eyes and ears of the Pakistan Navy" says security analyst, Ikram Sehgal. The plane functions as a form of radar.
AFP updates -- "It's a terrorist attack. More than 10 terrorists are inside. They have attacked a navy air station located in a Pakistan Air Force base," said provincial home ministry official Sharfuddin Memon.
"One of the four aircraft inside the premises has been damaged," he added.
American teams were working on the plane which came under attack.
P3C Orion is the name of the plane. It is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft.
beenasarwar @thekarachikid Easy to blame govt, when it's the security establishment that needs to change paradigm, & strategy.
sharmeenochinoy Just spoke 2 ppl on sharae Faisal still blocked- ppl being advised to go thru alternate routes #karachiattacks
Razarumi Vulnerabilities of Pakistani security agencies being exploited by terrorists. What a shame! #Pakistan [email protected]
Ahmed Jung reporting for Express 24/7 a hunt for terrorists is on going inside the base. Fire fighters have managed to get the fire under control.
A specific plane inside the base may have been a target.
At least four members of the PAF have been reportedly killed in the attack, says Ahmed Jung from Express 24/7. The Interior Ministry reported this casualty figure to the Chief Minister house.
However, no emergency vehicles have gone into the base.
Emergency has been announced in all Karachi hospitals.
CCTV cameras are monitoring the situation inside -- it is confirmed that terrorists are inside and they have targeted PNS Mehran and PNS Faisal, says Faraz Khan reporting for The Express Tribune.
Four to five spots have been targeted within.
It is also possible a hangar and a navy depot has been targeted.
ISPR's Major General Athar Abbas has confirmed there is an attack ongoing inside.
For previous attacks on Pakistan Navy within Karachi click here and here.
mosharrafzaidi RT @javeednusrat: dependable source insists attack started w rocket fires & not bombs. has all the appearances of a well-drilled out attack.
beenasarwar #CPLC sources @Rezhasan: Samaa News channel: 4 security personnel killed in attack on airbase
faizanlakhani @tammyhaq third attack on Pakistan Navy in one month
Media and emergency services have not been allowed to enter the base so far. Only fire brigades have been let in.
Earlier this month in Karachi, the Navy had come under attack, with multiple bombs targeting buses.
Rangers, wing commander's vehicle and up to five other cars have have gone inside the burning base.
The attack is specifically targetting PNS Mehran, confirms Faraz Khan reporting for Tribune.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has confirmed that this is a terrorist attack.
thekarachikid There's a 9/11, 26/11 and 7/7. Then there's everyday in Pakistan.
ammaryasir 5 injured includes one foreigner, probably a Chinese.
faizanlakhani complete blackout in base Faisal and Mehran
Pakistan Navy is trying to put out the fire inside the base. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has confirmed that this is a terrorist attack.
Sporadic fire is continuing at the PAF base says Ahmed Jung reporting for Express 24/7.
The first fire rescue team has reached the spot.
sharmeenochinoy This naval aviation base v sensitive area- how can terrorists enter this area- serious lapse of security #karachi
faisalkapadia People of #karachi we are under attack we must "unite" and not panic! Please stay calm we are togather in this. #mehran
AtikaRehman 4 dead, others injured according to Dunya TV #Karachi PAF explosion
Terrorists entered the base and there is an encounter on going report eye witnesses in the area say.
The Express Tribune correspondent Faraz Khan reports that hand grenades are likely being used according to the sounds from within the base.
There are reports of upto 6-12 terrorists inside the compound. Media standing about 2 kilometres from the blast site.
Reports are coming in that this is a coordinated attack. Security forces are allowing no one inside or out of the base.
Army housing and the PAF museum are also located within the compound.
Four major explosions have been heard so far, along with gunfire. It is as yet unclear whether there is a gun battle going on inside the air base.
Ahmed Jung reporting for Express 24/7 says Rangers, and police officials are on the spot at the PAF base.
According to initial reports a hand grenade was used in the attack and an attacker has been killed.
The force of the blast has shattered surrounding buildings.
Heavy gunfire was also reported after the explosion. An eyewitness said that the blast took place near the gate of Faisal Base.
Police, rangers and rescue had reached the site of the blast.