8 dead in Taliban assault on Pakistan naval base
ISLAMABAD (PAN): At least 25 officials were killed or wounded and two maritime patrol aircraft destroyed in an audacious assault on Pakistan's naval headquarters in the port city of Karachi, officials said on Monday.
A dozen fighters equipped with heavy weapons and bombs attacked the Mehran Base, a heavily-guarded aviation facility, late on Sunday night. Four of the 16 assailants blew themselves up before their associates stormed the base.
"One of our officers and seven navy personnel have been martyred," Commodore Irfanul Haq, a spokesman for the Pakistan Navy, told Pajhwok Afghan News. Sixteen others were wounded in the strike, lasting several hours.
Blasts were heard and helicopters seen hovering above the facility, almost 12 hours after the attack, claimed by the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group allied with Al Qaeda.
The assault was in retaliation for Osama bin Laden's killing by US Special Forces in a raid on a compound in the northwestern city of Abbottabad on May 2, the TTP said. "It shows we remain united and powerful," TTP spokesman Ihsanullah said.
Earlier, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the insurgents, intent upon weakening Pakistan, attacked from the rear of the headquarters. "We have been able to confine them to one building and an operation is underway to kill or capture them."
Witness Fayaz Kamran said he heard a series of loud explosions and intense gunfire on the base for several hours. Telephone connections and electricity supply in the neighbourhood were disrupted, he added.
Security forces arrested four militants, wearing naval uniforms. The attackers also hurled hand grenades and fired rockets at the building, damaging two P3C Orion aircraft.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack, saying such a "cowardly act of terror could not deter the commitment of the government and people of Pakistan to fight terrorism."
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