LAHORE: The May 22 terrorist attack targeting the Navy Base, PNS Mehran, at the PAF Faisal Base in Karachi is the fourth such attack against the Pakistani Navy since 2008, with terrorists having already targeted naval installations in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi in March 2008, December 2009 and April 2011 respectively.
It was only last month that three buses of the Pakistan Navy were targeted with roadside bombs in Karachi on April 21, 2011 and on April 28, 2011, killing over a dozen people, especially naval officers.
Well-placed sources in the Pakistani security agencies believe the Sunday night attack might be a jointly coordinated terrorist operation conducted by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaeda to avenge the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden. In fact, two different banned groups, the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Taliban (TTP), had claimed responsibility for the April 2011 bomb attacks.
However, the Taliban were the first ones to claim responsibility for the Karachi bomb attacks. “Our men carried out this attack and all security forces are our target. The Pakistan security forces will be targeted in the future as well, because they are killing their own people in Waziristan and elsewhere on the behest of the United States. They will be attacked everywhere in the country. Our organization is still strong in cities of Pakistan”, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told a foreign news agency’s correspondent via telephone while calling from an undisclosed location. While claiming responsibility [in a telephone call to a correspondent of the Associated Press from an undisclosed location] for the April 29, 2011 bomb attack, targeting yet another bus of the Pakistan Navy, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the Taliban would keep up the deadly strikes as long as the Pakistan Army continued to attack the group in the northwest.
The second responsibility claim for the April 27, 2011 twin bomb attacks, targeting two buses of the Pakistan Navy, was made by Bassam Baloch, the spokesman of the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), while making phone calls from an undisclosed location to some local journalists in Quetta. He said that the attacks on the Navy buses were carried out in reaction to missing persons of Balochistan and mutilated dead bodies of political workers being recovered every day from the Balochistan province. Bassam further said that his organisation is expanding its network in all parts of the country, adding that such attacks would continue in future also until the situation improves in the province. He said the Baloch people were struggling according to international laws, but the Pakistani security forces are continuously violating the international war laws. “Therefore, the BLF has decided to attack the Pakistani security forces anywhere in the country, and the attacks on Navy buses in Karachi were just the beginning.”
Before the terrorist attacks of April 21 and 28, 2011 and the terrorist assault of May 22, 2011, it was the Pakistan Navy War College in Lahore which was targeted by two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in the parking area of the building on March 4, 2008, killing eight persons.
The first suicide bomber exploded him to clear the way for the second bomber. The next attack targeting the Pakistan Navy was conducted on December 2, 2009 when a suicide bomber exploded himself outside Pakistan’s Naval Headquarters in Islamabad, killing a guard and critically wounding two navy personnel. The guard was killed as he tried to keep the bomber from entering the naval headquarters.
While the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan air force have no operational role to play in the US-led military operations in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Navy is a member of the US-led international naval force which patrols the seas to the West of Pakistan to prevent any hostile activity which could hamper the operations in the Afghan territory. The Combined Task Force 150, established at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, comprises naval forces from the United Kingdom and the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Pakistan. The Combined Task Force conducts maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The leadership of the Task Force is rotated amongst the participating navies. A Pakistani naval officer commands it off and on when the turn of the Pakistan Navy comes.
The PNS Mehran, Pakistan Naval Station Mehran, is in fact the headquarters of the Navy’s Naval Air Arm. The PNS Mehran is the navy’s first Naval Air Station, was commissioned on September 26, 1975 to support Fleet Operations. The base is situated in Karachi, 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) from the Quaid-e-Azam International Airport. Taking a start in 1975, the Naval Aviation has grown to its present inventory of 27 multi-role aircraft. The latest addition in the Air Arm was Lynx helicopter and P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol aircraft, which was destroyed in the May 22, 2011 terrorist attack.
PAF Base Faisal is located on Shahrah-e-Faisal. It is a joint user Air Field which is hosting six Naval Aviation Squadrons, one Army Aviation Squadron and one C-130 Squadron, which was positioned at Faisal. In addition to this a large number of transit movement as well as VVIP movement by civil, military and foreign aircraft are a routine matter at Faisal Air Base which is the oldest air base in Pakistan.