The latest attack was the worst on a military base since the October 2009 siege of Pakistan army headquarters [AFP]
Pakistan’s navy has declared that the operation involving an attack by armed men on a military base in the Pakistani city of Karachi has come to an end.
Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, said that 10 security officials got killed and 15 others injured in the attack that lasted for 16 hours hours before ending on Monday afternoon.
At least a dozen men attacked the Mehran base, a key naval aviation facility, late on Sunday. Two maritime patrol aircraft were destroyed and at least nine people were also wounded in the assault.
“The navy was in a high state of alert,” Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder said, adding that “the attack raises a lot of questions as to how such a large number of people, so well armed, could have actually gotten into the base”.
Malik said the “terrorists” sneaked into the base from three points adjacent to residential areas in the city of 16 million people, whose port is a vital hub for NATO supplies bound for Afghanistan.
“It is not just an attack on navy establishment, it is an attack on Pakistan,” Malik added, warning that those who sympathise with the Taliban and al-Qaeda should instead “join hands with us to save our country”.
Malik confirmed in a media conference that there were four attackers in total and added that two others are suspected to have run away.
“We have dead bodies of two of them, head of one and then there was another seen by eye witnesses, his body is expected to be found in the debris,” he said.
“We cannot confirm their ethnicity but they were fair-skinned, had sharp features and had short beards and they were wearing black clothes.
“I must salute the courage and professionalism of naval, rangers and police commanders.”
He further confirmed that there were 17 foreigners on site at the time of attack, including 11 Chinese and 6 American maintenance workers, but they were all escorted out of the premises safely.
At least two P-3C Orions, maritime surveillance aircraft given to Pakistan by the US, were destroyed, said a Pakistan navy spokesperson.
P-3C Orion aircrafts are used for maritime patrol and are capable of locating warships and submarines in ocean to destroy them. The estimated cost of this aircraft is $36m.
Speaking to media, Admiral Nauman Bashir, Pakistan naval chief, said that “US gave these aircrafts to Pakistan under foreign military sales.
“We have nine aircrafts, four are being modified in US and five were here of which two had not yet been modified.
“The way the attackers were trained, the way they carried out the attack, they did not appear to be novices. They had modern ammunition.”
Talat Hussain, a senior Pakistani journalist, told Pakistan’s Dawn News that “We need to realise that this is not just an incident. The reality is that Pakistan is under attack, it is not just a security breach.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Fazal Qureshi, chief editor at the Pakistan Press International news agency in Karachi said: “This operation is probably one of the longest operations which we have seen in Pakistan.”
According to navy officials operation went on for hours because they were trying to capture the fighters alive.
Intelligence officials said that three hangars housing aircrafts had been attacked.
Five explosions were heard at the base ahead of the attack, according to Pakistani Express TV.
Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, condemned the attack.
“Such a cowardly act of terror could not deter the commitment of the government and people of Pakistan to fight terrorism,” Gilani said in statement.
Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened further attacks.
“It was the revenge of martyrdom of Osama bin Laden. It was the proof that we are still united and powerful,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman told reporters by telephone on Monday.
“We had already warned after Osama’s martyrdom that we will carry out even bigger attacks,” he said, referring to previous vows to avenge the killing of the al-Qaeda leader by US special forces three weeks ago.