Karachi: Suspected militants stormed a naval base in Karachi late on Sunday night, rocking one of the nation's heavily guarded military installations with fiery explosions. The attack, which comes just three weeks after the death of Osama bin Laden, has left at least 10 people dead.
According to the reports, the Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. An emergency has been declared in all hospitals across the city.
The unilateral American raid that killed bin Laden had triggered a strong backlash against Washington, as well as rare domestic criticism against the armed forces for failing to detect or prevent the operation.
The terrorists used rocket propelled grenades to damage and destroy several warplanes including the Pakistan navy's premier anti-submarine attack jet - the US made P-3C Orion.
"The nation should support our forces and condemn Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are against Pakistan and they're a threat to Pakistan and today nobody should have any doubt that this attack is actually an attack on Pakistan. I believe that this is an attack on Pakistan. And this is now a responsibility of every citizen of Pakistan to condemn this act and also condemn those who are supporting Al Qaeda and the Taliban and issuing statements in their favour, and praying for them. I believe that they are not Muslim and neither are they well- wishers of Pakistan." (Watch)
Malik also said that heavy contingents of special naval and military commandos and other security forces have been rushed to the base to control the situation.
A Pakistan Navy spokesman, meanwhile, confirmed that two naval officers were injured in the attack.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani reportedly spoke to the heads of all three armed forces asking them to take immediate action to control the situation.
Gilani also condemned the attack, saying such a "cowardly act of terror could not deter the commitment of the government and people of Pakistan to fight terrorism."
The terrorists, numbering between 12 and 15, targeted PNS Mehran where some Chinese engineers were reportedly engaged in work within the Faisal airbase, at about 10.40 pm, sources said.
Reports suggest there is a hostage situation and the terrorists have taken over a building in the military complex.
The armed men lobbed several grenades and exchanged heavy fire with security forces. The firing died out at about 11.30 pm but erupted again at midnight.
The militants apparently entered the Naval base and hangers through the Pakistan Air Force museum, a source said.
"They took advantage of the fact that people at that time were leaving for home from the PAF museum inside the Faisal base," the source said.
Dawn News channel quoted witnesses as saying that they had heard up to five blasts. Heavy firing continued for over 20 minutes after the first blast occurred, following which there were reports of intermittent firing.
Hundreds of paramilitary personnel surrounded the airbase while commandos from the army's elite Special Services Group were sent in to sweep the area.
Footage on television showed ambulances rushing to the airbase.
The high-security area where the attack occurred also houses the Pakistan Air Force's (PAF) Southern Air Command, Air War College and museum as well as PNS Mehran.
The fact that militants were able to enter one of the country's largest military bases is another embarrassing blow to the army and will raise questions over whether the attackers had inside information. That they targeted a US supplied aircraft draws attention to American aid to the military, something generals here do not talk about, fearing criticism from the county's fiercely anti-American population.
Sunday's raid appeared to be the most serious against the military since October 2009, when militants attacked the army headquarters close to the capital, Islamabad. They held dozens hostage in a 22-hour standoff that left 23 people dead, including nine militants.
The raid began with at least three loud explosions, which were heard by people who live around the naval air station. It was unclear what caused the explosions, but they set off raging fires that could be seen from far in the distance.
At least one media report said a team of American technicians were working on the aircraft at the time of the strike, but US Embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said no Americans were on the base. Ali also stated there were no foreigners inside the base.