By Zia Ur Rehman and Yasir Rehman

KARACHI – Military forces regained control of Pakistan Naval Station (PNS) Mehran in Karachi early May 23 after a 15-hour battle during which militants occupied portions of the base.

Terrorists armed with rockets and explosives stormed PNS Mehran late May 22, triggering gun battles that left eight navy staff and two Rangers dead and injured 14 other personnel, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

”]Naval spokesman Capt. Shakeel later put government casualties at 11 Navy personnel and two Rangers.

The terrorists attacked with automatic weapons, Shakeel told Central Asia Online. They destroyed a P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, that western allies gave to Pakistan in June, he said.

Naval forces have secured all assets at PNS Mehran, Shakeel said in a statement.

“The operation is over. The main building has been cleared,” the statement said. “For precaution, we are continuing a search around for any more terrorists but the main operation is over.”

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack.

“It was revenge for the martyrdom of Osama bin Laden,” Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said by telephone from an undisclosed location. “It was the proof that we are still united and powerful.”

Government uncowed

Naval chief Adm. Nauman Bashir and Malik visited PNS Mehran May 23 after the navy retook control of the base.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the assault and said Pakistan would continue to target the terrorists until their elimination.

Gilani also ordered a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet May 25.

“The Committee under the Prime Minister’s chairmanship will review and assess national security in the aftermath of present challenges,” said a statement issued by his office.

Gilani remained in touch with security authorities throughout the cleanup operation at PNS Mehran.

The elements involved in such activities were the enemies of humanity and the country, said Dr. Fahmida Mirza, speaker of the National Assembly, adding that the entire nation is united in the war against terrorism and that terrorists cannot succeed.

An advocate filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court, seeking the formation of a high-level commission to investigate.

Tariq Asad’s petition calls for a government panel to assign responsibility for the security lapses that allowed the attack to occur and to punish those responsible.

The assault was the fourth on the navy in Karachi in a month. On April 28, four naval personnel and a passing motorcyclist were killed in a bombing; two days later, four people were killed in two navy bus bombings.

Authorities have begun a search of neighbouring residential areas, especially Dalmia and Natha Khan Goth, and have arrested numerous suspects linked to banned militant outfits.