It took more than a month after heavily-armed terrorists mounted a brazen attack on Pakistan’s biggest naval airbase in Karachi, but investigators have finally concluded that the attackers had support from within the Pakistan Navy.
The terrorists sneaked into Pakistan Navy’s airbase PNS Mehran on May 22, destroying two P3-C Orion surveillance aircraft and holding off military commandos for 15 hours before they were killed in a final predawn assault the next morning. At least 10 security personnel were killed in the attack.
According to a preliminary investigation report tabled before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence on Wednesday, some navy officials were in custody for questioning over their possible links with the attackers.
Senior officials briefed the committee about the investigations into the PNS Mehran attack – one of the most potent terrorist attacks on the country’s security installations.
The briefing was confidential, but some participants speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the navy officials admitted that the terrorists received help from people working at the airbase.
The report indicates that some people had conducted reconnaissance of the base before the attack. It also points out that closed-circuit TV cameras installed at the base were not working, making it easier for the attackers to slip through.
However, navy officials would not comment on the report. Briefing reporters after the meeting, Dr Azhra Fazal Pechuhu, head of the defence committee, said that the naval authorities had completed their internal investigations into the PNS Mehran attack.
“According to investigations, four terrorists were involved in the attack,” she said, adding that the mastermind would be brought to book after the completion of the probe.
She said the investigators were now looking into the external aspects of the probe where they would also try to ascertain if there was any foreign hand involved.
The May 22 attack on the well-guarded base raised questions about the ability of the security forces to protect their key installations from terrorist raids. And security analysts said it wasn’t possible for terrorists to launch such an attack without inside help.
Despite the briefing, committee members from the PML-N expressed dissatisfaction over the findings of the report. “What we have been told is nothing new as lots of information has already appeared in the media,” said an opposition member, who requested not to be named.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2011.