3 Navy men arrested from Quetta
PESHAWAR/QUETTA: Al-Qaeda’s new South Asia branch Thursday claimed responsibility for a weekend raid on a Karachi naval yard that left a sailor and three attacker’s dead, saying former military officers had helped in the attack.
It is the first attack claimed by the terror network’s new wing, whose creation was announced by chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri last week.
Security forces on Thursday arrested three suspects involved in attack on Karachi naval dockyard from the Lak Pass area of Quetta while they were trying to flee to Afghanistan.
The Qaeda claims, made on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York, will likely add to concerns about extremist infiltration of the Pakistani military’s ranks after the Taliban, who also claimed to be behind the attack, said they received inside help.
Defence minister Khawaja Asif had voiced concerns when addressing parliament on Wednesday, saying: “We cannot rule out the inside help in this attack because without it the miscreants could not breach security.”
Al-Qaeda in South Asia was launched last week in what experts see as a bid to remain relevant in the face of rising competition by the Islamic State (IS).
“The operation near Karachi shore was an attack by Al-Qaeda in the Subcontinent,” an Urdu-language statement from the group sent to AFP said.
It claimed that the target of the raid was a “US supply ship” and said the dead attackers included former Pakistan navy officers.
It was not immediately possible to confirm whether a US ship was present at the port. Militant groups in the region often exaggerate claims about attacks.
Commodore Nadeem Bukhari, a spokesman for the Pakistan navy said an investigation into the attack was under way.
“It cannot be ruled out but it is still premature to say that it was an inside work,” he told AFP. Al–Qaeda said the officers quit their jobs and joined the militants after growing becoming radicalised.
Al-Qaeda was previously linked to a 2011 raid on another Karachi naval base that lasted 17 hours resulting in the deaths of 10 personnel and destruction of two US-made spy planes.
The new hardline Jamat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban sent a “greetings card” to journalists on Thursday gloating over the 9/11 attacks and hailing former Al–Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Separately on Thursday, security forces arrested three suspects involved in attack on Karachi naval dockyard from the Lak Pass area of Quetta while they were trying to flee to Afghanistan.
A security official on condition of anonymity said, acting on intelligence reports, security forces conducted raids in the outskirts of Quetta and picked up three suspects. He said the suspects were Navy officials but refused to give any further information about their ranks and identity. They were shifted to Karachi on a plane from Quetta for further interrogation.
The suspects were trying to escape to Afghanistan, when they were intercepted by security forces. He said some suspects were also apprehended by security forces from Ormara and Karachi after the initial interrogation.
The Tehreek–i–Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has already claimed responsibility for the attack on the naval dockyard, claiming they had inside help.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has on record said “some of the navy staff of commissioned ranks and some outsiders” were involved in the terrorist strike.
The Taliban have already threatened a bloody response to a military offensive against insurgents in North Waziristan on the Afghan border. The military launched the offensive in mid-June shortly after a brazen attack on Karachi airport that left dozens dead and extinguished a largely fruitless peace process with the TTP.
The weekend raid was the latest in a series of high-profile attacks on key installations by the Taliban in recent years, including a 2011 assault on a naval base, also in Karachi, and on the military’s headquarters in 2009.