Fourth assault on Kamra base since 2007
ISLAMABAD, Aug 16: The pre-dawn attack on the PAF base in Kamra on Thursday was the fourth such attack since 2007 bombing of a bus near the entrance, followed by rocket attacks on the base in 2008, and a suicide bombing on a service road leading to the base in 2009.
The attack came against the backdrop of reports that Pakistan was planning to launch a massive offensive against Taliban sanctuaries in North Waziristan.
The PAF said one of its aircraft parked in hangar was damaged when terrorists fired a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) at it. The PAF didn’t disclose which one of its aircraft had been damaged but unconfirmed reports suggested that it could be SAAB-2000, a surveillance aircraft that had been included in the PAF fleet in 2008.
“All real assets at the base remained safe,” an official said.
The strike renewed memories of terrorist attacks on PNS Mehran (Karachi) and GHQ (Rawalpindi). Troops on those two occasions took 17 hours and 22 hours, respectively, to get rid of the attackers.
Counter-terrorism officials at a background briefing claimed the attackers were 10 in number, but didn’t explain the fate of the 10th assailant.
Another military source, however, claimed that one of the attackers had died in a hospital where he had been taken in injured condition.
Earlier in the day, PAF had claimed two military casualties but later revised it to one and one injured. The airbase that was attacked at around 2.10am was declared clear after almost eight hours.
Western media and local defence analysts tried to use the incident to raise doubts about security of nuclear assets by claiming that the base housed nuclear weapons.
But their claims were soon rejected by security officials as “baseless and concocted”.
How did it happen?
Narrating the chronology of events, a counter-terrorism official said terrorists wearing army uniforms scaled 9-foot high barbed wire wall and crossed the first cordon of the base. The assailants had chosen to wear army uniforms because the security of the base was handled by army soldiers.
A guard at one of the watch towers noticed the intrusion and fired two warning shots before reporting to the control room.
In the meantime, the attackers donning suicide jackets and carrying RPGs dashed to the second cordon, about 100 yards away from the first one. It was here, the officials say, that Sepoy Muhammad Asif Ramzan engaged them and held them up for 10-12 minutes, providing ample time for the Quick Reaction Force and other reaction mechanisms of the base to get fully mobilised.
Sepoy Asif laid down his life protecting the base.
Before Asif breathed his last, a back-up led by base commander Air Commodore Azam had reinforced him. Air Cdr Azam was injured in the exchange of fire with the terrorists.
“Sepoy Asif Ramzan sacrificed his life in the first line of defence while fighting against the miscreants at PAF Base Minhas. With outstanding audacity, he failed the malign intentions of the miscreants,” the PAF spokesman said, noting the valour with which the soldier fought.
Two companies of special services commandos, almost 150 of them, were mobilised from nearby Tarbela.
The terrorists, it was said, could not get beyond the first cordon and were neutralised by the security forces.
“The terrorists attack was foiled through high preparedness of PAF,” a security official noted.
Tip of attack
PAF Minhas had been on high alert for several days because of intelligence about a likely strike by militants and the troops had rehearsed defence of the base.
After completing the operation, troops combed the area and found two improvised explosive devices that were “detonated in controlled environment”. Sound of explosions created panic in the neighbourhood where residents thought fighting had
PAF constituted an inquiry board to investigate the attack. The four-member board would be headed by Air Marshal Syed Athar Hussain Bukhari.
President Asif Ali Zardari, while condemning the incident, said the government would not be deterred by such dastardly acts.
Prime Minister Ashraf said: “Such acts of terrorism cannot weaken the resolve of the government to fight terrorists and extremists who pose a threat to our way of life.”
Defence Minister Naveed Qamar said the terrorists had wanted to damage the country’s defence capability. He praised the armed forces for eliminating them.
RECOGNITION: Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt announced Rs1 million for Sepoy Asif’s family and Prime Minister Ashraf attended his funeral and condoled with his family.