Pakistan Navy braces for a ‘wave of attacks’
By Salman Siddiqui
Published: May 29, 2011
Six days after the deadly PNS Mehran gun and bomb attack, investigators have made headway by determining the group behind
the attack as a result of which the security agencies are cracking down on suspects throughout the country.
Forensic reports about the nature of explosives and weapons have been submitted to the investigation committee headed by Rear Admiral Tehseenullah Khan.
But amid these developments, the Pakistan Navy remains in a state of high alert as the threat of a new “wave of attacks” looms large, senior officials within the force tell The Express Tribune.
Al Qaeda involved
A senior navy official said it was true that al Qaeda’s Ilyas Kashmiri group was involved in the attacks
. Security agencies have arrested a number of people throughout the country, including some in Karachi and Faisalabad from this international terrorist organisation.
One of them, Qari Qaiser, is said to have taken orders directly from Kashmiri.
The official says that the truth is that there are many cells within the Ilyas Kashmiri group. Those who were arrested formed just the tip of the iceberg.
He said that the investigations have determined that al Qaeda militants had indeed managed to infiltrate the ranks of the navy and not only gained sympathisers, but also recruits
. “We are still figuring out how many of these militants were in contact with our [navy] people
,” he said.
The official said that although it was an unfortunate fact that people within their ranks have been found to be linked with extremists, “the navy too is a part of Pakistani society where extremism is breeding so it was just a matter of time when something like this would happen.”
This is not the first time that the navy has arrested extremists within its ranks.
Last year, in March, around five people from the Pakistan Navy were nabbed and found to be associated with anti-state militant groups
. They were caught before they could stage an attack and remain incarcerated, reportedly in Adiala jail, to this day.
The navy official confirmed last year’s arrest, which included junior commissioned officers and sons of officers of navy personnel
. He insisted, however, that it remains to be seen whether last year’s arrest played a hand in the PNS Mehran case. “We’re also looking into possible collusion of these militants with a foreign intelligence agency,” he added.
The senior navy official said that since the attacks and arrests, the threat to the force had in fact increased manifold. A “wave of attacks” could hit not only the navy but also the airforce, army and security installations in the coming days.
When DIG East Tahir Naveed was asked whether police has been given access to the suspects caught by the agencies, he declined to comment specifically on the issue, saying that the investigation was still on-going. However, he said there was no truth in the reports that police was having a hard time gaining access to not only the suspects caught but also navy personnel who were present at the base at the time of attack. “We are gathering witness accounts from those present at the base and the people who suffered injuries in the attack unhindered,” he said.
The Federal Investigation Agency’s mandate has been limited to establishing the forensics aspects of the case, which includes ballistics. When FIA Director Sindh Moazzam Jah was asked whether it was true that the attackers had used M16 rifles, Uzi submachine guns, Russian grenades and rocket launchers, he said, “This is privileged information and can only be disclosed to the chairman of the probe committee since it can help with tracking down other terrorists connected to the attackers”. Sources say that the FIA has already submitted its report to the committee.
Bodies in the morgue
The remains of the four PNS Mehran terrorists are still being kept at the Edhi centre’s morgue. Edhi’s Anwar Kazmi says that usually they kept unclaimed bodies for three days and buried them in an unmarked grave if no relatives come forward. “But in this case, we will keep the remains until the authorities tell us to and will dispose them only when we get a letter from the navy and police that we can go ahead and bury them,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2011.