Navy base attack: Attack linked with bus bombings, not Osama

Published: May 24, 2011
Media gather at the gates of the Mehran naval aviation base after troops ended operations against militants in Karachi May 23, 2011. PHOTO : REUTERS

Media gather at the gates of the Mehran naval aviation base after troops ended operations against militants in Karachi May 23, 2011. PHOTO : REUTERS


The Pakistan Navy does not believe that the attack on its airbase had anything to do with Osama bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad on May 2, given the fact that Sunday night’s attack was the third on the navy, with two attacks on navy-owned buses that took place on April 26 and April 28, a week before the death of the al Qaeda leader.

A senior navy official told The Express Tribune just one day before the attack that threat levels at naval bases and cantonments remained at an all-time high, despite weeks passing by since the bus bombings.

“Every day we get a new alert. In fact we’ve been told to keep our guns close by since it was likely that a gun and bomb attack on the pattern of what we saw in 2009 on the GHQ may take place,” he had said.

Naval personnel were  instructed to carry guns everywhere inside their base and homes in a break for normal policy, when they would have just keep weapons in the store rooms of their base.

“All standard operating procedures were being followed religiously,” the officer said, which included unscheduled timings of vehicles leaving the base, an increase in the number of checkpoints, and gunmen at the gates of naval installations.

However, the intelligence was not specific enough to say when and where exactly the attack would happen.

Inside job?

Previously, the navy was focusing its investigation into the bus attacks on possible involvement of Baloch separatist groups. In light of the attack on the Mehran naval airbase on Sunday night, however, naval intelligence is now taking the involvement of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and al Qaeda more seriously.

However, there had been no significant breakthroughs in the investigations of the bus bombings, background interviews with senior officials revealed.

There appeared to be a split between the leads followed by senior counter-terrorism officials in the Sindh Police and those pursued by naval officials.

Police officials insist that the attacks could not have happened without at least one navy officer or sailor being involved but naval officials reject that possibility, saying that no evidence supports this hypothesis. The navy has denied the police access to some of its personnel for questioning.

A senior police official said he had no doubts that someone in the navy had given minute-by-minute updates to the terrorists holding the remote to the improvised explosive device (IED) planted outside the base. “This became clear when the second attack on the navy took place outside PNS Mehran when an unscheduled bus left the [adjacent] base on April 28,” he said.

Another senior counter-terrorism official said they had intercepted a conversation of two men speaking in Pashto after the blasts, making the Baloch militant angle unlikely. Both the TTP and the separatist Balochistan Liberation Front have claimed responsibility for the attack.

A senior navy official dismissed the assertion that anyone from the military could be involved. Although he admitted that the bus that left the Mehran base on April 28 was unscheduled, he claimed that anyone conducting reconnaissance could learn that a number of navy buses leave their bases early in the morning. Another navy official denied the reports that naval intelligence had held a suspect on a military base for interrogation.

A navy spokesperson said that the inquiry report into the incident was unlikely to be made public.

Blast report

Forensics experts have concluded based on laboratory reports that all explosives used in the April 26 and April 28 bus bombings on Pakistan Navy were homemade improvised explosives devices (IEDs) comprising potassium chlorate and diesel fuel. It doesn’t have any similarities to the bomb found during the Chehlum blast at Jinnah hospital in 2010 as previously believed.

According to the report, the remote controlled IEDs used in Defence on April 26 tested positive for TNT and Tri Acetone Tri Peroxide (TATP). The two Baldia bombs, one of which was recovered intact and later defused, tested positive for nitroglycerine, Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate (PETN) and TATP. The Karsaz bomb residue matched the profile of PETN and TATP.

TNT, an explosive compound, is usually used as one of the components of an IED. The TATP is an organic peroxide and a primary high explosive. It has been used in a number of terrorist attacks worldwide, including the famous shoe bomber Richard Reid case, who attempted to blow up an American Airlines flight. Reid had attempted to use the TATP as a trigger to detonate his PETN explosive. The PETN is considered as one of the most powerful and effective high explosives. Interestingly, the same compound can also be used as a drug to treat certain heart conditions, such as angina attacks.


Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Mirza
    May 24, 2011 - 8:37AM

    It is important that we should believe the big bosses in the armed forces. They way they recaptured their base again with only a few hundred million $$ damage, is bravery of historic proportion. Out of an army of 6 attackers only 2 were allowed to escape and two were killed by our forces while the other two blew themselves.

    The ease and efficiency with which these “high tech” terrorists came and escaped is yet another proof that the terrorist’s backbone is crushed. Recommend

  • Mirza
    May 24, 2011 - 8:56AM

    Thank God the navy was alert. Otherwise the army of 6 terrorists might have captured the base for good. If they were not alert and present in 3 minutes, the two terrorists who blew themselves up, would have also escaped. Jaagte raho jawano. Recommend

  • pervez akhlaq
    May 24, 2011 - 9:16AM

    these islamic terrorists have inside help in all these attacks.Zia had started a process of islamisation of the armed forces,the results of which we are suffering today.All the sectors of the forces are filled with religious fundamentalists whose loyalty doesn’t lie with the pakistan army but with islamic fundamentalism.

    the situation is made worse by our forces’ insistence on living in denial.The forces aren’t willing to accept to themselves the harm that religion’s intrusion into the armed forces has done.

    Our soldiers should remember that this is the Pakistan army not the ummah’s army.
    We pay high taxes so that these people can buy the military hardware to protect our children,not the children of the arabs,iranians or chechens.Recommend

  • akthar zafar
    May 24, 2011 - 9:23AM

    The only solution is to separate religion & the state.As long as we continue to think of ourselves as muslims first & pakistanis second this religious terrorism will continue.

    Jinnah had created ” The republic of pakistan”, the religious fundoos then blacmailed a weak govt into changing it to ” The ISLAMIC republic of pakistan”.It’s time we changed it back to its original form before islamic fundamentalism destroys us completely.Recommend

  • vasan
    May 24, 2011 - 10:15AM

    Why waste so much time and money on all these useless investigations and end up finding out nothing. As usual blame it RAW/MOSSAD/CIA and the invisible foreign hand etc and go back to sleep. Till the next big bang wakes u guys up. Recommend

  • dextor
    May 24, 2011 - 10:20AM

    I see this as inside job with external hand…out of Pakistan…Recommend

  • Hassan
    May 24, 2011 - 10:27AM

    there has to be someone from the navy to have conspired the attack at the Mehran base; and denying access to “some of the Naval officials” have made it all the more suspicious.

    P.s: this sounds very implausible to have had so much arms and ammunition and even RPGs inside a naval base.Recommend

  • May 24, 2011 - 10:57AM

    Revenge for bombing bus of navy taken with bombing planes? Somebody is till protecting ally serpent US.Recommend

  • Fazal Gafur
    May 24, 2011 - 10:58AM

    Well Well! Its an other security & Intelligence failure of this Govt after severals happened in near past.
    being an ordinary citizen of Pakistan it’s something worrying for me.

    I’m you sure my all comments/emails this Govt doesn’t seem to be a Pakistani one.
    What ever was stated for Mollana Fazl-ur-Rehman by USA in the Wikki Leaks, I woud say it for this Govt coz if you look at the country everything is in Predicament Scenerio.

    What ever decission been made is wrong.

    I don’t know what to do and what to say and now I’ve left everything on allah coz no has ever listen and addressed our issues….Recommend

  • Asim+Ali
    May 24, 2011 - 11:17AM

    Gentlemen, this is a bigger game. They are out to de fang you of your nuclear weapons. And they have a strategy which is working. The NRO was a bigger disaster than the fall of Dhaka. Lets accept this and fix this before its too late. Put the 111 brigade to good use and get the right man for the right job. National sovereignty is bigger than the most corrupt man sitting on constitution avenueRecommend

  • Ashraf
    May 24, 2011 - 11:31AM

    Cut the defense budget to the corrupt military and sign a defense agreement with China. This military is not capable of defending the country. Recommend

  • Ib
    May 24, 2011 - 11:41AM

    yeah, right !!!!, when these guys gonna wakeup ????Recommend

  • Ib
    May 24, 2011 - 11:42AM

    really ? ….we believe you of course !Recommend

  • Blunt!
    May 24, 2011 - 12:11PM

    Yeah, probably they should let the Chinese take control over their Defense establishments.

    I am sure the ‘All Weather Friend’ that China is, would really help Pakistan come out the current sad state of affairs.Recommend

  • NA
    May 24, 2011 - 12:39PM

    Attackers knew the strategic importance of the base and assets inside it, as their target was to destroys these planes. One must see resent incidents with bus attack carrying French engineers of Agosta-B submarine some year back. Such kind of coordinated attacks on military are definitely supported by foreign hand as everything is being blamed on Taliban and Al-Qaida these days. At this time when Pakistan and its Military in particular are on the hit list of world and media it is the responsibility of people of Pakistan to stand by their Govt and military to show solidarity otherwise western powers will attack Pakistan soon same like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya in the name of liberating people of Pakistan from corrupt Govt and military. Recommend

  • amjad bashir
    May 24, 2011 - 12:41PM

    enough is enough,we’ve lost 35,000 of our people to islamic terrorists,how many more have to die before we face upto the truth that problem is not the jews,the christians or the hindus,the problem is our insistence to stick to mindnumbing religious dogma which glorifies bloodshed & violence.

    Why are we so afraid to talk about the elephant in the room? we know these terrorists scream ” Allah ho akbar” before blowing themselves up & killing innocent people.

    we need to have a revision of the religious text to take out the misogyny,the glorification of violence,the severe degradation of women & homophobia.The christians had their new testament which took out the offensive things from the first one,it’s time we did the same.Recommend

  • Santosh
    May 24, 2011 - 12:52PM

    As an Indian I sincerely propose that the Chinese should be allowed to take over the security and management of nuclear weapons in Pakistan. China is a rival. But from an organizational and a national policy perspective, they are far more stable and less likely to do something crazy e.g. sell the nukes to Libya etc. Or worse give them to terrorists. China appreciates stability. Pakistan seems to have no functioning government. Plus Pakistan would trust the Chinese to do this, since China is an old and best friend of Pakistan. Surely they wont harm you. Recommend

  • Ahsan
    May 24, 2011 - 12:53PM

    It’s a shame that our security forces can’t even protect their bases(military). How will they justice with the security of whole country?Recommend

  • RizwanTKhan
    May 24, 2011 - 1:08PM

    It does show our Millitary need to be more vigilant and alert and Yes CIA,RAW is involved in this but the worse part is that our govt is too chicken to declare it openly just like Musharraf. Recommend

  • Aamir
    May 24, 2011 - 1:21PM

    Come out of stone age. Few intruders can climb wall with ladders and invade Naval Facility. What a joke!!!

    I was very disturbed when Mr. Rehman Malik was breifing the media. Our Army should focus on defence instead of Defence Housing Authroity and after service benefits. We pay taxes for defence but we were let down in recent days.Recommend

  • VGM
    May 24, 2011 - 1:31PM

    Pakistan needs an Ataturk – the great Turkish leader..Need to separate state and religion. Involving religion in everything has been the bane of the Paki’s… secularism is the best system!!! Recommend

  • Azeem Anwer
    May 24, 2011 - 2:08PM

    @pervez akhlaq:
    BTW how do you know they were ISLAMIST terrorists?Recommend

  • AAC
    May 24, 2011 - 2:15PM

    @amjad bashir:
    Your comment speaks volumes regarding your knowledge concerning Islam and Quran in particular. It’s very evident that you in your whole life has not read Quran even once.Recommend

  • Ahsan
    May 24, 2011 - 2:32PM

    Pakistan is investing huge amount of money on it’s military budget and what we get…nothing? Govt. is corrupt…whole bunch…from top to bottom. We should select someone who thinks for people and has got the ability to do something for this nation. People should stand united and come to front when country need you most. Every Pakistan can do his part by casting vote to the RIGHT MAN. Recommend

  • Aamer Khawaja
    May 24, 2011 - 3:33PM

    This attacked should only be linked to one thing – incompetance.

    It is very dis-heartening to see that after the attacks were over, the Chief of Navy was more concerned about reaching the place in cars with matching colors(matching the uniforms), above that he was very picky about the sequence of cars, a 2011 model 7-series BMW, followed by 2008 model 5-series BMW, followed closely by perhaps a 2010 model Land Cruiser, all white.

    Chief, we didn’t invite you to a party, to show off. It was an attack, the people of this country had paid billions of rupees in taxes so you can get your P-3C Orions, we paid taxes so you can relax in BMW’s and think only about this country.

    Our armed forces have lost track, they’re worse than politicians now, we critise politicians for coming in latest cars, but everyone over looked our Chief. Shame on us.Recommend

  • Kazmis
    May 24, 2011 - 4:19PM

    The topic is indicative of state of confusion. who has done this terrorist job and for what goal? Either TTP for revenge or Al-Quida or India, Israel or CIA contractors etc etc. But why? Why C3 Orion . It may not just be for revenge. It’s clear that we do not know who exactly is our enemy and what is his motive. Anytime when any such terrorist action is done there is a call from somewhere that TTP has done it, we close our eyes and relax. Long discussion of experts on TV finish their discussion on TTP. However the fact is that some forces are doing the job under the cover of TTP. PNS Mehran action is a clear evidence that after making Pakistan Navy Blind & Deaf, second action on now Blind & Deaf force would be catastrophic and final.Recommend

  • AHP
    May 25, 2011 - 1:51AM

    It was,indeed, a well-planned attack that woke up our quiet and inactive NAVY. It greatly tested our naval forces’ capabilities. But the question is why Navy? It does not fight against the Talibans in the battlefield. Then who can be behind this attack? Surely, one cannot rule out the Indian factor behind this. The destruction of half (2 out of four) of P-3C Orion, long-range patrol aircraft, can be a hint in this direction. Because, these sophisticated Orions posed a significant threat to Indian warships in the entire Arabian Sea due to their long range of operations, and nuclear weapons carrying capability in their internal bomb bay.

    Hence, we should not be fooled, every time, by TTP’s responsibility claims of such attacks. Rather, we should open our eyes, make our forces strong; intelligence agencies competent; identify the real enemy, and crush the enemies of this country.

    Long Live Pakistan!Recommend

  • Rizwan
    May 26, 2011 - 12:49AM


    this military is not even capable of defending itself, let alone defending the nation.Recommend

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