Interior ministry cell had warned of attack on airports, airbases

Updated June 10, 2014


The schedule of flights for Karachi from Benazir Bhutto International Airport has been disturbed following Sunday’s attack on the port city’s airport. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
The schedule of flights for Karachi from Benazir Bhutto International Airport has been disturbed following Sunday’s attack on the port city’s airport. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: The weapons and explosives used in the attack on Quaid-i-Azam International Airport in Karachi on Sunday night might have been transported into the building prior to the arrival of the terrorists there, security officials told Dawn on Monday.

The security forces recovered a huge quantity of weapons after killing the attackers, but it would have been impossible for the terrorists to enter the airport carrying the weapons on their bodies.

This suggested that the attackers slipped into the premises carrying a small quantity of weapons.

Officials in the Karachi police, airport and the interior ministry said the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of the Ministry of Interior in a letter on June 8, 2012, had alerted the departments concerned, including the security and law enforcement agencies, about such a modus operandi of militants to target airports and airbases.

Officials say such a huge cache of ammunition could not be carried in by terrorists

The letter had stated that the attackers may enter the key installations disguised as visitors or labourers and use a cargo company for transportation of their arms and ammunition along with explosives into the buildings. The letter stated: “Local employees might provide help to the terrorists.”

The alert had warned that such an attack had been planned by Al Qaeda, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Ilyas Kashmiri group.

At that time, the authorities concerned had also been informed that the terrorists had already completed surveillance of the installations.

It may be noted that a few months after the issuance of the alert by the NCMC, Kamra Airbase in Karachi was attacked on August 16, 2012.

Officials stationed in Karachi and close to the investigation told Dawn that they would also probe the attack on the Quaid-i-Azam International Airport in the light of the alert issued two years back.

“Those who got employment in the airport or in any company working inside the building since 2012 would also be questioned,” they said.

The attackers were armed with a large quantity of weapons and they could not have entered the building carrying them on their bodies, they said, adding there was the possibility that the weapons had been transported inside the airport separately.

“The transportation of such a huge quantity of weapons could not have been possible without the help of insiders,” they added.

The officials said during the investigation of the previous terrorism attacks in the country, it emerged that either foreign militants or foreign-funded attacks were carried out with foreign-made arms and ammunition.

Officials at the Karachi airport and Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad said after the issuance of the alert by the NCMC in 2012, security checking had been tightened at the airports’ entrances for the general public. But it (checking) was not the same at the entrances used by officials and personnel of the Airport Security Force (ASF).

“The attackers were wearing uniform and that might help them enter the premises from the entrance reserved for the ASF and other security personnel and officials.”

They said a fresh security advisory was issued on Monday to all the authorities concerned to also mount high security and vigilance at the entrances reserved for the security officials.

It may be mentioned that in October 2012 security forces during an operation near a residential area of Benazir Bhutto International Airport picked two suspects for their alleged links with the outlawed TTP.

The suspects were identified as Farhatullah alias Janber and Mohbat Khan alias Faqir. They were suspected of having a reconnaissance of the airport and Chaklala Airbase, they added.

When contacted, Sindh Rangers spokesman Maj Sabtain Naqvi said the arms recovered from the terrorists included Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG7), grenade launchers, hand grenades and suicide jackets.

In reply to a question, he said such a huge quantity of weapons could be carried by the terrorists.

About the possibility that the weapons might have been transported to the airport before the terrorists entered the building, Maj Naqvi said the matter was still being investigated.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2014