Pakistan dockyard attackers planned to hijack navy frigate

The Taliban militants who attacked Karachi's naval dockyard last week were planning to hijack a Pakistani navy missile frigate with inside help, indicating the extent of radicalisation within the forces.

Karachi: The Taliban militants who attacked Karachi's naval dockyard last week were planning to hijack a Pakistani navy missile frigate with inside help, indicating the extent of radicalisation within the forces.

"It seems the intention was to hijack PNS Zulfiqar, a frigate purchased from China and inducted in July 2009," the Dawn newspaper quoted a source as saying.

The Pakistani navy has so far issued only one statement in connection with the attack claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which said it had inside help.

Investigators have detained at least 17 navy personnel for their alleged involvement in the attack on September 6 when at least six militants stormed the dockyard.

But the attack was foiled by marine and army commandos who killed two militants, including a former navy officer who had left the service a few months ago, and captured four others.

All the detained persons are either serving or former navy personnel, according to the Dawn report that said the suspects are likely being grilled at a military interrogation centre.

"The investigators and security personnel have been able to extract plenty of important information from the four attackers who were captured during the attack that took place last Saturday," an official said.

The report said the details of the attack reveals the extent of radicalisation within the Pakistani navy.

The weapons used in the attack had already been smuggled into the dockyard and had been stored in lockers by the rogue navy personnel.

"The group of would-be hijackers, led by a senior officer, was even saluted by the guard at the bottom of the gangway, before another became suspicious of their intentions and alerted other personnel," it said.

Even when terrorists had attacked the Mehran naval airbase in May 2011, it was speculated that the TTP militants had inside help.

Officials believe the uncharacteristic way in which TTP claimed responsibility two days after the attack could be because they themselves did not know what had actually happened.

"It was also possible because the attack occurred deep inside an area that is not easily accessible unlike, for instance, the attack on the Mehran naval aviation station [in May 2011]," said Ahmed Chinoy, chief of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee.

Navy personnel have often been attacked in Karachi with two attacks on their buses in April 2011 followed by the Mehran naval base attack.

The Taliban has threatened a bloody response to military's assault against insurgents in the lawless North Waziristan. The army claims to have killed over 900 militants and lost 82 soldiers in the offensive launched in mid-June.