KARACHI, May 22: Armed militants stormed into a naval airbase here on Sunday night, destroyed three aircraft and killed at least five people — four navy personnel and a foreigner whose nationality could not be ascertained.
According to sources, 12 to 15 militants managed to sneak into the PNS Mehran base, which is used for naval aviation, from three directions and carried out a simultaneous attack on different targets.
It could not be confirmed if they had faced any resistance or had used some disguise while entering the premises.
The militants also took some Chinese personnel hostage in a building inside the base, which was subsequently surrounded by naval commandos, the sources said.
The PAF Museum located near the base is visited by a large number of people on Sundays.
The militants either placed detonators on the aircraft present in hangars in PNS Mehran or used rockets to blow them up.
Witnesses said they had heard three or four explosions, but another blast took place in the base at around 1am, turning the whole place into an inferno. The blast which was heard as far as Rashid Minhas Road spread panic among residents.
The fire and smoke were visible from the Sharea Faisal and intense gunfire was being heard.
The sources said at least two P-3C Orion aircraft and a helicopter were destroyed in the attack.
A naval official, who wanted to remain anonymous, said it appeared that the aircraft fleet was the target of the attack.
During the entire episode, the base continued to resonate with gunfire.
A spokesman for the navy confirmed the destruction of one aircraft and injuries to two navy personnel. He said SSG Commandos had also taken part in the operation.
Five firemen were injured while trying to put out the fire.
The sources said that four militants were killed and two injured suspects were arrested by law-enforcement personnel while they were trying to flee from a seminary located near the Karsaz flyover.
Local law-enforcement officials, including police and Rangers, reached the place but were not allowed inside the base for some time.
At around 1.30am, the base authorities allowed some private ambulances inside the premises after searching them, giving an indication about casualties.
But the ambulances were stopped after another blast, followed by gunfire.
Till early Monday morning, intermittent gunfire was being heard outside the base.
Hundreds of ambulances were parked outside the base.
Army personnel were patrolling the Sharea Faisal as the operation continued in the base. Media personnel outside the base saw smoke and red dots flying in the night amid sound of gunfire.
Till the filing of this report, none of the injured or bodies had been taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. A PAF hospital and the navy’s PNS Rahat are also located in the vicinity of the base, but it was not clear if any of the injured had been admitted there.
On April 28, a bus carrying naval personnel was attacked at the entrance of the PNS Mehran, killing five people.
Two days earlier, two navy buses were attacked by terrorists in the DHA and Baldia, leaving four people dead and 56 others injured.
The banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and Baloch separatists had claimed the responsibility of the attacks.