Lieutenant Yasir Abbas, killed leading a counter-attack to reclaim the base, has become a national hero [Reuters]

Pakistan's military has come in for unexpectedly stinging criticism from the country's media following an attack by Taliban fighters on a key naval base in the southern port city of Karachi.

Editorials in both the English and Urdu-language press on Tuesday ridiculed the army and accused them of complicity in the attack, which saw a small group of fighters lay siege to the PNS Mehran naval base.

"Political rhetoric and a Cabinet Defence Committee meeting are not going to solve this one," read an editorial in the English-language daily, The News.

"This is an epic failure exposing an existential threat that will need epic leadership to countervail."

An editorial in the usually pro-military Urdu-language Jang, said that the attacks illustrated "a weakness of security measures".

"In very polite words, it can be called worrisome negligence," the paper said.

The English-language Dawn newspaper questioned whether the attackers had received help from within the military, asking: "Did the Taliban raiders have information inside the naval base?"

"Such a possibility cannot be ruled out, because the involvement of serving personnel in several previous attacks has been well-established," the paper said.

National hero

At least six gunmen infiltrated the naval base in Karachi late on Sunday, killing 13 security forces and wounding 20 others.

 
Many in Pakistan are concerned about the government's ability to maintain security [Al Jazeera]

The base is the headquarters of Pakistan's naval air wing and the fighters were able to destroy two P-3C Orion aircraft from the United States, crucial assets for Pakistan's anti-submarine and maritime surveillance capability.

It took about 100 commandos, rangers and marines to kill four of the attackers and recapture the base.

Despite the criticism of the military, the country has embraced as a national hero Lieutenant Yasir Abbas, a young navy officer who was killed leading the counter-attack against the Taliban fighters.

Yusuf Raza Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister, travelled to the base on Tuesday to pay tribute to the security forces who died.

"We are proud of these brave men", Gilani said, singling out Abbas for particular praise.

But the attack has been a further humiliation for Pakistan's military, already on the back foot following the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, by US special forces on Pakistani soil, where bin Laden had been in hiding.

Source: Agencies