News / Asia

Taliban Attack Karachi Military Base, 7 Killed

Pakistani troops drive past a wreckage of a gutted aircraft at Pakistan Navy base in Karachi, Pakistan, May 23, 2011
Pakistani troops drive past a wreckage of a gutted aircraft at Pakistan Navy base in Karachi, Pakistan, May 23, 2011

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Militants in Pakistan attacked a naval base in the commercial capitol of the country, Karachi, killing at least seven people.

Gunmen launched a coordinated three-pronged attack on the Mehran naval base late Sunday and the clash with security forces lasted well into the midday on Monday.

Elite Pakistani commando and ranger forces were rushed to the base and quickly cordoned off the area.

Police say 15 to 20 militants attacked the Mehran naval aviation station armed with guns and grenades.

Residents in the area say they heard three initial explosions that started the hours long fight. Several more explosions were heard throughout the night.

At least one U.S.-supplied surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft was destroyed in the attack.

A Taliban spokesman said the attack was launched to avenge the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan earlier this month by U.S. special forces.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik rushed to the scene to assess the damage.  He said the government will defeat the militants.

"Taliban and Al Qaida has announced earlier that they would attack Pakistan’s armed forces and they have done this first act, and that is why they say Pakistan is on war, Pakistan is suffering, Pakistan is a victim," he said. "And we have the courage, we have the resolve to fight.  And we will keep on fighting until the demise of these terrorists."

Many Pakistanis are becoming increasingly critical of the military - an institution that traditionally has been beyond reproach. But in the fallout from the Bin Laden raid there are questions about how well the security forces can protect the nation.

Adnan Afsar, a local resident near the Mehran Naval Base, expressed his frustration with the security forces.

"You can see how much security there is around this place," he says. "No ordinary person can get inside. How did these people get in? It means our security is incompetent," he says. "This is obviously a security failure."

Critics also point to the fact that there have been a number of very public threats made in statements by extremist groups inside Pakistan.

The fact that the gunmen were able to coordinate and infiltrate the base from three directions also has many in the Pakistani media questioning if there was some inside help - furthering concerns that the military has been infiltrated with those who are sympathetic to the extremist cause.

There is also growing concern that Pakistan’s security forces are unable to adequately protect and defend the country’s assets: including the nation’s nuclear assets.

Security Analyst Ikram Sehgal says the government and the military should have known the situation following the Bin Laden raid would be dangerous and thus put all security forces on high alert.

"We need all our security forces to be in a state of the highest alert," said Sehgal. "And I am sorry to say, somebody must be held accountable and some action must be taken."

The Pakistan government has launched four inquiries into the May 2 raid that killed bin Laden and sparked the current crisis.

Authorities say there will also be a full investigation into this most recent attack.

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