The newly-formed Indian subcontinent division of transnational terror group al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for Saturday night’s attack on a Naval dockyard in Karachi — the organisation’s first strike since its existence was made public last month. The attackers, the statement said, were former Pakistan Navy officers-turned-jihadists who were attempting to hijack a missile frigate to stage an attack on a United States aircraft carrier.
The claim was made in a statement released online on Thursday — the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks — by Usama Mahmood, the spokesperson for Qaidat al-Jihad fi’Shibhi al-Qarrat al-Hindiya, or al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).
Few details are available on the attack, in which a Pakistan Navy officer was reported killed along with two terrorists. Karachi police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo told the media that the slain attackers included former Naval official Owais Jhakrani, the son of senior police officer Ali Sher Jhakrani. Pakistani media reports said the attackers succeeded in briefly seizing control of the Chinese-made F22P-type frigate, the Zulfiqar.
Mahmood’s statement — in Urdu — says, “The Naval officers who were martyred on Saturday in the attack in Karachi were al-Qaeda members. They were trying to attack American marines and their cronies”. Following training at an al-Qaeda camp, the men were tasked with hijacking the missiles through which they were to attack an American carrier, says the note.
“They had taken over control of the ship and were proceeding to attack the American carrier when they were intercepted by the Pakistan military,” the statement says. “These men thus became martyrs. The Pakistani military men who died defending enemies of the Muslim nation, on the other hand, are cursed with hell”.
In a brief statement which did not describe the circumstances of the attack, the Pakistan Navy said four attackers had been arrested, leading to raids by “intelligence agencies which led to arrest of other collaborators and accomplices from different parts of the country.” Karachi-based newspapers have reported that those arrested included two Naval officers, but there has been no official confirmation.
Mahmood’s statement promises that al-Qaeda will soon released the videotaped last testaments of the attackers — a longstanding practice of the organisation. The release of the videotapes could enhance the credibility of the claim, which comes in the wake of similar but less-detailed statements by two rival factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan — both, however, with links to al-Qaeda.
In March 2011, Tehreek-e-Taliban and al-Qaeda cadre had stormed the PNS Mehran airbase near Karachi, destroying military assets including P-3C Orion aircraft valued at $35 million, and killing 15 military personnel. Muhammad Aqeel, one of the terrorists captured during the strike, was a former Pakistan Army nurse, while three Naval officers were court-martialled for aiding the attack.
Brigadier Ali Khan, serving at the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, was held in connection with a 2009 terrorist attack on the Pakistan Army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi, while three Air Force personnel were held after investigations into the 2012 strike on a Pakistan Air Force base at Kamra.