ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Navy on Tuesday remained tight-lipped on the defence minister’s claim in parliament that the weekend Karachi dockyard attack was an inside job.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, speaking on a point of order by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani, said “some of the navy staff of commissioned ranks and some outsiders” were involved in the terrorist strike.
Pakistan Navy’s public relations wing said on Monday night that its troops had thwarted an attack on the Karachi dockyard on Saturday in which one of its soldier lost his life while defending the facility.
Two militants were killed and four others were apprehended by naval security personnel. Some of the attackers were said to be wearing navy uniforms.
The defence minister promised to lay more details about the attack before parliament on Wednesday.
TTP claims responsibility; Al Qaeda role also likely
It is claimed that some navy men were also involved in the 2011 attack on Mehran Base, which is the deadliest attack so far on a navy installation.
A navy spokesman when contacted to comment on the claims about the involvement of some navy personnel in the dockyard attack said several arrests had been made from Karachi and other cities. He, however, refused to say if there were navy personnel among the dead or arrested attackers.
“Disclosing such sensitive information at this stage could compromise our investigations that are still continuing for unearthing the network,” the spokesman said.
He did not speak either on the reports that one of the attackers reportedly killed in the incident – Owais Jakhrani — was a former navy sailor, who had quit a few months ago. Twenty-five-year-old Owais was son of SSP Ali Sher Jakhrani.
“The body was handed over to the hospital and we do not have any further details to offer,” another navy spokesperson said.
He avoided commenting on the links of the militants. “It’s too early to say that”.
The proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. A person identifying himself as TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid sent messages to journalists, saying: “We claim responsibility for the attack on navy in Karachi.”
He claimed that support from “inside navy” had helped the TTP carry out the strike. Shahid vowed to carry out more attacks against the armed forces in future.
Police investigators in Karachi said a body found along the seashore on Sunday was that of Owais Jakhrani.
“It’s our own investigation which suggested that Owais was one of the attackers who targeted the navy’s dockyard facility,” Karachi police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo told Dawn.
“There was no bullet wound on his body. Though he died of drowning, he was one of the attackers. Initially, police took the body as of a drowning victim and shifted it to the Edhi morgue. Details emerged later to determine the facts and identity of the deceased,” he added.
Referring to his talks with SSP Jakhrani, who was in Saudi Arabia on an official visit, Mr Thebo said Owais had been recruited as a commissioned officer in the navy and quit the force some four to five months ago to join civil service.
“He left home on Friday informing the family that he was leaving for Islamabad. The family was under an impression that he was in Islamabad, but someone called his father in Saudi Arabia that his son was killed; go and get his body from Edhi morgue,” he said.
The facts shared by the city police chief, however, failed to quell the mystery shrouding the incident. Even police findings were not confirmed by the navy.
“We were not aware any of such incident (recovery and identification of Owais Jakhrani’s body)” said a navy spokesman. “We have already shared the details with the media and we stick to those facts. We are not aware of the reason behind the police claim so we cannot confirm that.”
Although the police authorities confirmed that Owais was one of the attackers, they distanced themselves from investigation into the attack, saying it was solely the navy’s job. That was perhaps the reason which restricted the law-enforcement agency to register an FIR of the attack.
If the facts shared by police and the navy are relied on, the number of attackers may rise.
There was no word from the Karachi police about information which led them to believe that Owais was involved in the attack. If he was, the question about the cause of his death remains unanswered. There is also a question why his body could not be spotted by security forces fighting the attackers.
Security sources see the fresh assault as a signal of global terrorism network’s revival in Pakistan.
“There are signs which suggest that the attack was carried out with the assistance of people within the force,” said a security official. “It is believed that the attack was carried out by Al Qaeda with help from within the Pakistan Navy. Al Qaeda in Pakistan is showing signs of revival. One cannot ignore recent announcement of Al Qaeda having formed an Indian branch of the militant group to spread Islamic rule and raise the flag of jihad across the subcontinent.”
Meanwhile, Owais Jakhrani was buried in Tark-i-Ali graveyard in Jacobabad. His funeral prayer was offered in the ground of a government school and attended by his relatives and a large number of people.
Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014