Navy officers suspect inside job in PNS Mehran

Published: May 26, 2011
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Attackers knew the base “inside out” and were well aware of the points where they would have an advantage. PHOTO : AFP

Attackers knew the base “inside out” and were well aware of the points where they would have an advantage. PHOTO : AFP

KARACHI: 

Officials from Pakistan Navy suspect the May 22 naval airbase attack would not have been possible without inside help.

They, however, deny that the change in command at the PNS Mehran has anything to do with the attack and termed the transfer orders a ‘routine’ matter.

Inside job

When the attackers cut the barbed wire on the perimeter wall at the end of the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Faisal base which is adjacent to the PNS Mehran, they had two options.

Instead of the naval base, they could have gone after the assets and personnel of the air force, but they chose not to, even though there were at least four American-made C-130 cargo planes on the PAF side.

“The attackers knew that the navy’s prized assets such as the Orion aircraft and the Chinese and American personnel were present on our base and they came specifically after them,” a senior navy officer said, admitting that no one on the outside could have known about it.

He said the attackers knew the base “inside out” and were well aware of the points where they would have “an advantage over the security forces” who would engage them.

He pointed out that three of the Special Service Group commandos, who were sent in to subdue the attackers, saying this was “no easy feat”.

The navy officials suspects the reconnaissance prior to the attack was carried out not only by someone taking visual footage of the base from the nearby Karsaz bridge, but also by someone from inside the sprawling base where, more than 500 personnel are deployed at any given time.

However, they denied that the attackers were provided weapons by some insider and insisted that the terrorists were equipped with their own Russian-made machine guns, grenades and rocket launchers.

“They are definitely some people suspected of involvement from within, but we’re still investigating exactly who was behind it,” he said.

“From a janitor to an officer at the base, everyone is a suspect at this point,” he said.

He said that previously there have been cases when clerics of local mosques at naval premises were found to be involved in ‘anti-state’ activities.

While the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have claimed responsibility for the attack, navy officials say that they are not ruling out the possibility of a “foreign country’s intelligence agency’s involvement in the incident”.

Rear-Admiral Tehseenullah Khan, who was the former director-general of the Maritime Security Agency, has been appointed as the head of the team probing the case.

Uzbek attackers?

Navy officials insist the attackers were “not Pakistanis, but foreigners”.

“When I saw the body, I immediately knew that the young man was (an) Uzbek,” a navy official said. He provided no forensic evidence to support his assertion.

However, doctors who conducted the autopsy on the bodies of the four terrorists contradicted the navy’s asertion and said they looked like “any other young Pakistani men” from northern areas.

Interestingly, the autopsy report says the terrorists were “Muslim males between the ages of 22 and 26”. When asked how they determined the religious leanings of the terrorists, the doctor said the autopsy revealed they were circumcised.

Meanwhile, security agencies on Wednesday took a new set of samples for DNA testing from the bodies of the four terrorists being kept at an Edhi morgue.

Change of command

Base commander Raja Tahir has been replaced by Commodore Khalid Pervez. Although the announcement of the change in command of the PNS Mehran has been made only two days after the attack, Pakistan Navy officials insist it is nothing out of the ordinary.

“There’s no truth that Tahir is being replaced as punishment since his replacement orders had been issued four months age and Commodore Pervez has been on the base for more than a week,” a navy official said.

A navy official says that even though they were being blamed for a massive security lapse, the fact is that the breach occurred on the side of the wall that comes under the air force’s jurisdiction.

“They have their own cameras and watchtowers there and failed to spot the attackers. So why blame us,” the official said. He added that there was no question about heads being rolled for the incident.

Rehman Malik

Navy officials are extremely upset with Rehman Malik’s statement that some attackers might have escaped the base and say their chief, Admiral Noman Bashir, had no alternative but to agree with the federal minister’s statement.

They also say it was peculiar that Malik came on air at 10:43pm on Sunday, claiming that around 10 to 15 attackers had not only infiltrated the PNS Mehran base, but also taken control.

“The attack began at 10:37pm. How could he claim to know all that when even we at the control room did not know the exact position,” they added. A navy officer admitted it was a mistake on their part for lodging an FIR which said there were more than 10 attackers.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • Nasrullah Khan
    May 26, 2011 - 8:17AM

    The Navy never suspected that an attack would come from the Air Force compound and hence did not feel the need to secure that wall. This wall is common to the two forces and hence never posed a security threat. That it was an inside job is a distinct possibility, but it will be impossible to prove. To say that Indian forces are involved is escapism from our own failures. The aircraft that were destroyed have also been used for surveillance in N.Waristan and the boys there do not like it. Pakistan faces some very difficult times ahead and conspiracy theories will only make these times harder to bear. Let us start calling a spade a spade. TV anchors should stop inciting the awam with false news and statements. They may be after ratings but are causing untold harm to the nation. Freedom of the press carries a huge responsibility to always tell the truth and AVOID sensationalism.Recommend

  • pl/sql
    May 26, 2011 - 8:25AM

    Told you so!Recommend

  • May 26, 2011 - 9:25AM

    @Nasrullah Khan: Well said brother when one starts to look within then a solution is near . I do not imply that involvement of external agencies is to be ruled out but the problem and solution our within.Recommend

  • Muhammad Rashid Awan
    May 26, 2011 - 9:37AM

    I am more convinced that “insiders” would be Americans as they were present inside the base and they knew exactly where the PC-3 Orion Planes were parked.Recommend

  • Smarty
    May 26, 2011 - 10:09AM

    Commandos reached within 3 min, as if they were already ready to go.
    Rehman malik went air within 6 min with all oficial figures, as if already knew.

    All sounds Fishy !!!Recommend

  • RizwanTKhan
    May 26, 2011 - 10:32AM

    Why only those planes were destroyed? And of-course it was an inside job. Navy MUST find those insiders.Recommend

  • May 26, 2011 - 10:46AM

    When they were cutting wires where were the soldier in watch towers?Recommend

  • Kazmis
    May 26, 2011 - 10:55AM

    If it was a job involving insider than they were several insiders involve both from PAF and Pak Navy. Since they came from the wall of PAF no one could see them or ignored, they travel 2.5 km from PAF to Mehran no one noticed, when they came to PNS Mehran premises no one checked.Recommend

  • MAD
    May 26, 2011 - 11:02AM

    I think personnel from both PNs Mehran. PAF Faisal as well as Army Aviation should be considered suspects.Recommend

  • Chacha
    May 26, 2011 - 11:03AM

    Find it surprising that despite official spokesman of TTK claiming responsibility the hand of India is not being ruled out. And comments show that hand of US is not being ruled out. Looks like someone wants to either protect the TTK or raise the temperature of the sub-continent – in short someone who is uncomfortable with the current detente in the region.Recommend

  • Ramal G
    May 26, 2011 - 11:33AM

    @Chacha:

    If it isn’t the Americans, then it is the Indians.

    If it is the Indians, then maybe it is the Jews and etc and etc.

    It is the never the fault of the Pakistani’s ( ISI or Army) or any crazy TTB member. Even if the TTB claim they did it.

    The fact you are even considering that it is America or India, demonstrates the mental delusion of some Pakistanis. By the way, this mental delusion will destroy your country.

    Stop looking abroad and look at the Sham democracy that is being run by the Military and intelligence elites.

    By the way, it is the ISI or an Army insider that gave them the information. Recommend

  • M. Sasiq
    May 26, 2011 - 12:11PM

    We are frustrating from our Army, after some serious terrorist activities , i think these all activities done by Army self, how it possible that 4-12 man come into navel base with Big armed and bomb and Targeting the Two latest Plane, is not the failure of our security forces, if they not protecting there own base stations then how they support us?Recommend

  • RP
    May 26, 2011 - 12:14PM

    “From a janitor to an officer at the base, everyone is a suspect at this point,” he said.

    Well, except the 6 Americans who have already left the country….Recommend

  • Zainab Ali
    May 26, 2011 - 12:30PM

    The possibility of an inside job can not be ruled out. Radicalization is spreading like an epidemic in our country. Even our forces and law enforcement agencies can’t rule out the presence of radical elements among their ranks. Recommend

  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    May 26, 2011 - 12:37PM

    @Moise:
    SLEEPING!!!!!! Recommend

  • Jibreel
    May 26, 2011 - 12:41PM

    i dunnoe about the inside out job, but theres this thing called google maps…….
    shud’ve had the area censored on there.Recommend

  • ani
    May 26, 2011 - 12:46PM

    The set up for the fall guy has begun.
    Foriegn Intelligence Agency: read the usual suspects – India, USA and Israel.
    Rehman Malik’s statements: agree with the Navy’s view point that how did the ever present and all knowing Mr. Malik know the ‘facts’ so quickly and with such certainity while the situation was unfolding. Right or wrong – the civilians are being set up by the men in Khaki. If that fails everyone will wash their hands by blaming this on India.
    In the land of the pure facts are fiction and fiction is truth to the believers. Recommend

  • Aamer
    May 26, 2011 - 1:05PM

    ”From a janitor to an officer at the base, everyone is a suspect at this point,” he said.

    But from top to bottom no body is suspected for incompetance.Recommend

  • parvez
    May 26, 2011 - 1:08PM

    The way things are unfolding the saying ‘ sab chalta hai ‘ is not only being reinforced but has now attained a sinister meaning.Recommend

  • May 26, 2011 - 1:09PM

    Yeah whatever. This story will be forgotten by next week anyway. No one will be held accountable.Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    May 26, 2011 - 1:34PM

    Nasirullah Khan Sb….pls read the specs of PC3 Orion planes before commenting on statements that these aircrafts were being used in North Waziristan…these aircrafts are designed & meant for maritime surveillence & allied activities & not for any ground support….for which we hv Chinese & Swedish built aircrafts already in service….so pls wud advice to desist from statements for the sake of commenting only…the only beneficiary of this act is ” India ” & it is now an open secret…why these attackers not touch the C 130s & other aircrafts parked in Faisal base having common boundary wall…which were more easy & convenient targets…no Talibans have been killed or captured in black overalls but in traditional Shalwar Kameez only with traditional AKs….but those killed in Mehran had RPGs,LMGs & Night vision goggles…?? which is why there first target were the PC 3 planes with 2 objectives – one to destroy them & create blackouts & smoke screen…then take our Jawans out conveniently via NVGs….from our side it was a massive security lapse…whether it is accepted or denied ( DENIED most convenient – has been our history )….blame game has become the order of the day….because as a nation & individually too we have lost all moral values…we hv also become ” intellectually bankrupt “.Recommend

  • Haris
    May 26, 2011 - 2:05PM

    I would just like to point out that /sarcasm thanks /sarcasm to google anybody can look at the site plan buildings and infact some of the planes in stock at PNS mehran.
    Map LinkRecommend

  • Wasim
    May 26, 2011 - 2:06PM

    The didn’t target any other aircraft just targeted the Orion P3 anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft. Who would benefit from this? Think people, dont listen to every word from Rehman Malik.Recommend

  • Salman J.
    May 26, 2011 - 3:03PM

    Those foreigners can also considered as insiders who were working there. Their immediately returning to their country also raises thoughts in my head. Because insider(those foreigners), meeting many people can finds weakest links & important weaknesses in security.Recommend

  • student of uop
    May 26, 2011 - 3:08PM

    @those who want us to believe that this work is of TTP because they claimed responsibility…i must remind you that TTP has a habit of claiming responsibility of everything…to the point that it became a joke that pakistan loss in the world t20, TTP claimed responsibility…they even claim responsibility of a vietnamese terrorist in the USA and claimed he was a muslim..and we later knew that he was vietnamese and non-muslim…one has to assess if TTP have those sort of sophisticated weaponry and are they capable of carrying out such a planed attack… and it could be an inside job as Mumbai attacks were inside job as nobody can reach from karachi to mumbai in a small boat and wearing t-shirts of “i love pakistan”… where was the indian navy? and RAW? but instead of looking inside they just absolved themselves by blaming ISI….Recommend

  • Al Bakr
    May 26, 2011 - 3:10PM

    So, this would mean that Pakistan Navy had recruited Indians, Israelis and Americans?Recommend

  • Ruhina Hashmi
    May 26, 2011 - 8:56PM

    “Malik came on air at 10:43pm on Sunday, claiming that around 10 to 15 attackers had not only infiltrated the PNS Mehran base, but also taken control….. The attack began at 10:37pm. How could he claim to know all that when even we at the control room did not know the exact position,”

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm …………….Recommend

  • mahmood
    May 26, 2011 - 9:43PM

    @Wassim The didn’t target any other aircraft just targeted the Orion P3 anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft. Who would benefit from this?

    OK I’ll bite — who? And BTW – when was the last time Pakistan was attacked via submarine? Rather than focus on moronic conspiracy theories I would suggest you explore the obvious — it was a lightly defended expensive plane which made it a target of opportunity.Recommend

  • amjad
    May 26, 2011 - 10:07PM

    It was PNS Mehran this time, next time it could be some other base or some other asset. It is time to stop pointing fingers on others, no matter who they are. Country needs a proactive leadership and planning to protect the lives and property of each and every citizen and its institutions. Time to stop talking nonsense and to work proactively to prevent these incidences, no matter where they happpen in the country. It is time to destroy terrorism no mattter how, where and when it happens. Do not blame Taliban, Clerics, India, USA, Israel. Blame yourself for your own stupidities, and mistakes. Then only you will be able to solve these problems. There is a problem with the nation as a whole, blaming, every one else on the face of the earth, except yourself. This goes for it leaders, media and the pundits on talk shows. All the nonsense talk on TV may be good for senstionaliztion, but accomplish nothing. The guests, will come and start their converstion with “Bismillah” and will talk in vain or lie again and again. It is also time for Pakistani Press, which is mostly independent to play constructive role. Experts, who are not knowledgeable, or do not even know how to articulate in a civilized manner should not even be invited.Recommend

  • Nirvan
    May 27, 2011 - 3:26AM

    Most of the posters are obviously muslims in Pakistan. Some are Indian.
    I am an Indian minority and proudly call India my first home while I live in the USA. I have several Pakistani physician friends who are embarrassed as hell to be recognized as Pakistani. They are the innocent victims of this bad Governance by the military which contols the state.
    My father an Indian Naval officer, served at this Karachi Naval Base while a part of the Royal Indian Navy until 1947.
    India has its own problems, and I would not be surprised if India is not meddling in the Balochistan province. But India, nor the US is not responsible for your repeated suicide attacks. This is the collateral damage from your inteligence community breeding cobras. The Chicago hearing of a confessed ISI/LET agent is causing a lot of news, and it is not good.
    The people of Pakistan need to stand up and ask that the Govt assert control. Or is it too late?? Navaz Shariff seems to want it so. Recommend

  • Nirvan
    May 27, 2011 - 3:33AM

    You are proud to be Pakistanis, first. And you should feel so, again.
    You are muslim in private. For allah’s sake keep your God out of your battle cries and daily life. I am a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a sikh, a Buddhist. Allah must be very upset his name is taken before every killing or mass murder. What an oxymoron, ‘a holy war. What is holy about any war? Keep the two identities seperate, if your country or any of the middle east countries want to march free into the future as free and democratic. Religious Republics is just a way for the corrupt dictators to pit Sunni against Shia, tribe against tribe and stay in power. Recommend

  • Saqib
    May 27, 2011 - 4:25AM

    Commandos reached within 3 min, as if they were already ready to go.
    Rehman malik went air within 6 min with all oficial figures, as if already knew.

    All sounds Fishy !!!

    Smarty is right for the army to move one has to get a ok from the CNC then from the local commander and then a order to go.
    This racket was well prepared in advance

    Mir Jaffar and Mir Saddiq in the past Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    May 27, 2011 - 6:04AM

    Time to go after the Taliban —- no question about it!
    Also time to get rid of the pro-taliban media types. They make me want to throw upRecommend

  • Hedgefunder
    May 28, 2011 - 12:14AM

    Everything that happens in Pakistan is a “Inside Job” nothing new there!! Only the Media make it outside Job as its what is required to please the audiance!!!!!Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    May 28, 2011 - 9:50AM

    So the rest of (12 or 14)them changed back to their regular uniforms?Recommend

  • observer
    May 28, 2011 - 10:37AM

    Had the Orions not been destroyed, the ‘conspiracy theorists’ would have turned around and said, See the American assets were left unmolested to save the Americans from being billed as the cost of ‘war on terror’.

    My take? Money meant for upgradation had been pilfered, and now the evidence has been destroyed.

    How is this for conspiracy?Recommend

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