Base attacked to avenge Osama death: Taliban

, TNN | Aug 17, 2012, 06.00AM IST

 ISLAMABAD: The Taliban raid on the Minhas air base on Thursday underscored US defence secretaryLeon Panetta’s concern about Pakistan. “The great danger we’ve always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in their country, then those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands,” Panetta said in Pentagon on Tuesday.

He was responding to queries on a recent congressional report on Pakistan’s increasing India-centric nuclear capabilities. PAF spokesman Tariq Mahmood said the attackers scaled the base’s walls covered with barbed wires but were shot dead before they could reach the hangars there. Mahmood denied reports about nukes being stored at the base. Local journalists, who were at the scene, said they heard the bang of the rockets that hit the aircraft.

The attack was similar to the one that the Taliban carried out on a naval complex in Karachi days after al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a US raid in May last year.Pakistan defence minister Syed Naveed Qamar lauded the “preparedness” at the base, saying the death toll of the militants and minimal damage caused to the base were proof enough. Officials said they were investigating the possibility of insider collaboration as in the attack on the Karachi naval base.

Tehrik-e-Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said only four suicide bombers attacked the base to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden and their chief Baitullah Mehsud. “Our men succeeded in giving a lethal blow to the armed forces and achieved their targets,” he said, adding that the attack showed they could strike at will and would target other installations as well.

He rubbished claims that just one soldier had died in the attack, saying dozens of security personnel were killed. “We specifically targeted the Minhas base as fighter planes used against us are built there.” This was the third attack on the base. Eight people were killed after a suicide bomber blew himself up near a checkpost outside the base on October 23, 2009.

Five kids were injured in a similar attack on a school bus near the base in December 2007. The latest attack came amid speculation that Pakistan plans an anti-Taliban operation in their stronghold of North Waziristan bordering Afghanistan. The dreaded Afghan insurgent Haqqani network is also believed to be holed up in the area. Pakistan had earlier carried out largely successful operations in South Waziristan and Swat.


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