The Last Interview of Syed Saleem Shahzad
Days before his brutal murder, journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad gave TRNN an interview titled: Splits in Pakistan's Military Over New Agreement to Cooperate with US
Article reporting links between Al Qaeda & Pakistan Navy - May 24
Pakistan's military under al-Qaeda attack
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
ISLAMABAD - The brazen al-Qaeda-linked attack on the Pakistan navy's Mehran air base in the southern port city of Karachi on Sunday night marks the violent beginning of an internal ideological struggle between Islamist elements in the Pakistani armed forces and their secular and liberal top brass.
More than 10 heavily armed militants attacked the base from three sides, blowing up several sensitive aircraft including a United States-manufactured surveillance plane. At least 20 security personnel are known to have been killed and as of late Monday morning the militants were still holding hostages in the facility.
The attack has been claimed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban), but Asia Times Online contacts are adamant that the operation was orchestrated by al-Qaeda to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden this month by US Special Forces and carried out by 313 Brigade - the operational arm of al-Qaeda that is headed by Ilyas Kashmiri.
The attack began at about 10.30pm on Sunday night when the militants, carrying guns, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades, stormed the base. They blew up guard rooms before heading for a hanger, where they targeted P-3 Orion aircraft with rockets, recently supplied by the US to Pakistan, on which some American officials were working.
The first move against the militants was made on Sunday night by Sindh police and Rangers, but they were immediately repulsed. Then navy commandos entered on early Monday morning, but they took at least 12 casualties. Later, the Special Services Group of the army was deployed and it has also received some casualties.
According to eye witnesses reports, the militants acted in a calm and relaxed way, firing at intervals. They appeared to have complete knowledge of the base and frequently changed their position. Very much like the Mumbai attack, the militants were well-equipped with arms, ammunition, food and drink.
"It was shown several months ago that the Pakistan navy is vulnerable to Islamists when a marine commando unit official was arrested," the security official said. "He was a member of the Mehsud tribe from South Waziristan [tribal area] and was completely indoctrinated by militants. Naval Intelligence never shared the information with the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] or any other security agency that during interrogation he confessed that militants planned to attack installations during the visit of a foreign delegation. Now, they [intelligence] realize how the organization [navy] is riddled and vulnerable to the influence of militant organizations," the official said.
This is the third attack on a naval installation in the past 30 days - two were launched before Bin Laden's assassination.
"The Pakistan navy constituted a high-level inquiry committee after their bases were targeted last month," a senior security official told Asia Times Online on the condition of anonymity. "The teams arrived to Karachi last month and asked for our input. They were wondering why militants were targeting the navy as they were not involved in any anti-terror operations. We told them that the navy's own staff were hand-in-glove in those two attacks," the official said.