Militants stormed one of Pakistan’s biggest military bases in the country’s largest city late Sunday, triggering explosions and gunbattles three weeks after the US killing of Osama bin Laden. At least 10 people were wounded as blasts and gunshots rang out at the sprawling base used by the Air Force and Navy in the centre of Karachi, where the local government confirmed that the base was under “terrorist attack”. An AFP reporter saw scores of soldiers and navy commandos entering the base as reinforcements, where flames and smoke could be seen rising into the night sky. An AFP photographer heard seven blasts and periodic bursts of gunfire.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Pakistan’s military has long been on the frontline of gun, suicide and bomb attacks blamed on the country’s main Taliban faction and other Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups. The Taliban have also repeatedly threatened attacks against Western and Pakistani government targets to avenge the killing of Osama by US Navy SEALs in the garrison city of Abbottabad near the capital Islamabad on May 2.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered his interior minister to Karachi immediately and to “coordinate the security efforts being taken by the civil and military officials,” his office said in a statement. Commander Salman Ali, spokesman for the Pakistan Navy, told AFP that members of the security forces were fighting against gunmen. “An exchange of fire with terrorists is continuing. Their firing is fading away and we have launched a search operation,” he said. “It’s a terrorist attack. More than 10 terrorists are inside. They have attacked a navy air station located in a Pakistan Air Force base,” said home ministry official Sharfuddin Memon from the southern province Sindh.