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Osama's revenge: Karachi attack the tip of terror iceberg?

Last updated on: May 23, 2011 18:36 IST

Image: A plume of smoke rises from the Mehran naval aviation base after it was attacked by militants in Karachi
Photographs: Reuters
Suspecting that the Pakistan government and the Inter-Services Intelligence have backed the United States in its operation against Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, extremist organisations have decided to avenge the killing. There's no stopping the Taliban and more attacks similar to the one at the Karachi naval base are expected, fears the Pakistan media. Tahir Ali reports.

After the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, Pakistan is facing the heat from the West, which is blaming its government for supporting extremist forces. Meanwhile, terror groups wanting to avenge the Al Qaeda chief's death has been targetting Pakistani installations as they feel the government backed United States in the Abbotabad operation.

Soon after bin Laden was killed the Al Qaeda and Taliban declared Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence as their Enemy No 1. And the vengeful terror groups have trained all their guns against Pakistani security forces and sensitive installations and so far have been quite successful.

In a new attack, Taliban militants armed with rockets and explosives stormed a major naval airbase in Karachi on Sunday night and killed 13 personnel and destroyed two US-made surveillance aircraft. The gunbattle between the 30 militants and the Pakistan Navy continued for almost 13 hours.

Talking to the media, Pakistan Navy spokesman Commodore Irfanul Haq said, "They were equipped with sophisticated weapons and one P-3C Orion, a maritime patrol aircraft, had been destroyed."


Can Taliban attack anywhere, anytime in Pak?

Image: Paramilitary forces leave the Mehran naval aviation base after troops ended operations against militants in Karachi
Photographs: Reuters
Sunday's attack is the second deadliest attack over Pakistan's sensitive installations after militants stormed Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009. Claiming responsibility for the attack, Taliban spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan claimed, "We have attacked the base; Taliban took part in it and the attack is a successful one. This is our revenge for killing OBL."

The Karachi attack is a message for Pakistani security forces that the Taliban could strike anywhere and anytime. The Taliban's strikes have made Pakistan's common man insecure as the militants are targeting even the main cities.

Condemning the attack on the naval base, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said, "Such a cowardly act of terror could not deter the commitment of the government and people of Pakistan to fight terrorism. Pakistani forces would take decisive action against the enemies."

Contrary to the premier, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik seemed worried. "It is not just an attack on a navy establishment, it's an attack on Pakistan. The sympathisers of the Al Qaeda and Taliban should join hands with the government to save our country."

Taliban feels ISI is exploiting it

Image: The media gathered at the gates of the Mehran naval aviation base
Photographs: Reuters
Some factions of the Pakistan Taliban are blaming the Inter Services Intelligence. They suspect the ISI helped the United States in the bin Laden raid and the spy agency is exploiting the outfit for its vested interest in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  

Prior to Osama's death, Taliban commanders like Mullah Nazir of South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur from North Waziristan were against attacking Pakistani forces and their focus was on Afghanistan, but the May 2 incident has made them to review their strategies.

This faction may join hands with Tehrik-e-Taliban if Pakistan acting on US advice starts any military operation against the Haqqani Network in north Waziristan. They will then declare an open war with Pakistani security forces, say sources from Taliban.


'Vengeful Taliban may be difficult to counter'

Image: Policemen pass through the gates of the Mehran naval aviation base
Photographs: Reuters
Rahimullah Yousafzai, a senior Pakistani journalist who is an expert on militancy-related issues told, "The Al Qaeda and Taliban have started taking revenge for killing of bin Laden. They have already carried out some other attacks but the Karachi incident will be a big achievement from them. Such attacks cannot be planned overnight. It was planned earlier but they executed it after the killing OBL to show that they can target any part of the country. It is just the beginning and Pakistan could see further such attacks."

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Pakistan bureau chief, Asia Times Online, said, "It is a security lapse and the more alarming is that insiders from the Navy base helped the militants to attack. It is 100 per cent carried out by the insiders who are affiliated to the Al Qaeda."

It is revealed that insiders were also involved in the April attack on a Pakistan Navy bus, which killed Karachi. That attack claimed the lives of four personnel of the Pakistan Navy, one civilian and also injured nine others.

When contacted, Brigadier (retired) Mehmood Shah, former secretary of tribal areas and a defence analyst, said, "The Taliban are the foot soldiers of the Al Qaeda and they are avenging the killing of OBL from Pakistan. Such attacks are difficult to be countered as it is now happening all around the country, not at a particular place."