Friday 31 March 2017

Gunmen attack Pakistan navy base

Residents of Khyber in northwest Pakistan stand over the caskets of those killed by a secondary blast at the site of a NATO tanker on Saturday. At least 16 people were killed after a bomb attack, claimed by a militant group, hit a truck carrying fuel supplies for NATO. Photo: Reuters
Residents of Khyber in northwest Pakistan stand over the caskets of those killed by a secondary blast at the site of a NATO tanker on Saturday. At least 16 people were killed after a bomb attack, claimed by a militant group, hit a truck carrying fuel supplies for NATO. Photo: Reuters

Faisal Aziz in Karachi

Gunmen attacked Pakistan's naval aviation base yesterday, starting fires, setting off explosions and fighting pitched gunbattles inside one of the country's most heavily guarded military installations.

Officials said at least four people had been killed in the attack on PNS Mehran in the southern city of Karachi.

Between 15 to 20 gunmen were inside and had attacked hangars housing aircraft, officials said. Witnesses said they could hear gunshots and see smoke rising from the base.

"They were equipped with sophisticated weapons," navy spokesman Commodore Irfan ul-Haq said.

Another spokesman said one P-3C Orion, a maritime patrol aircraft, had been destroyed.

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 under way either to kill or capture them," he said.

Assault

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 to militants.

Taliban militants, who have vowed to avenge the killing of al-Qa'ida leader Osama bin Laden by US special forces, have carried out several attacks since his death on May 2.

A least a dozen ambulances were parked outside the base, waiting to take wounded to hospital. Pakistani military and paramilitary reinforcements were pouring in, with four vehicles carrying about 10 troops each moving into the base.

An intelligence official said four people had been killed and five wounded.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani condemned the "terrorist" attack.

"Such a cowardly act of terror could not deter the commitment of the government and people of Pakistan to fight terrorism," Mr Gilani said.

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