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Pakistani Troops Corner Militants On Naval Base

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Pakistani Troops Corner Militants On Naval Base

Asia

Pakistani Troops Corner Militants On Naval Base

Pakistani Troops Corner Militants On Naval Base

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Insurgents stormed a major Pakistani naval base in Karachi — setting off a prolonged gun battle with security forces. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, saying it was revenge for the U.S.-led military raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Alex Rodriguez, the Islamabad bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, talks to Mary Louise Kelly about the fighting.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

In Pakistan, a team of Taliban militants has carried out a daring raid on a naval base in Karachi. They were armed with grenades and rockets and they split up into smaller groups once inside the base. A spokesman for Pakistan's navy says at least 12 security guards have been killed in the attack. Well, joining us now from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, is Alex Rodriguez. He's with the Los Angeles Times. Hi there.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Hi.

LOUISE KELLY: So tell us a little bit more, the details we know about what actually happened in this raid.

RODRIGUEZ: Sure, the Pakistani navy is telling us that there were somewhere between 10 to 15 insurgents armed with RPG launchers, AK47 automatic rifles, and hand grenades that stormed this naval base in Karachi, and after that they exploded two large surveillance aircraft, known as P-3C Orion aircraft. These are aircraft that were delivered to Pakistan by the U.S. And then after that, they broke off into groups and held the compound for about 15 hours.

As it stands right now, the Pakistani Navy commandos and soldiers that surrounded the base, it seems that they have retaken the base and assumed control.

LOUISE KELLY: Do we know why militants would have targeted this navy base in particular?

RODRIGUEZ: We don't know exactly why this navy base in particular, however, the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for this attack, and they specifically have said that the motive for this was retaliation for the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. It's now the third retaliatory attack against a Pakistani target.

LOUISE KELLY: You know, you mentioned the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. I mean, the fact that these militants were able to enter what was supposed to have been a secured Pakistani military facility, is that going to prove a further embarrassment for the military establishment, which is already rattled.

RODRIGUEZ: It likely will. Pakistanis were extremely upset and concerned with the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. They were very disheartened to learn that the U.S. helicopters were able to slip into - deep into Pakistani territory undetected by Pakistan's military and its radar systems. And this attack, today, is going to shake the confidence of Pakistanis further, and raise more questions about the military's ability to defend and secure these installations.

LOUISE KELLY: And just quickly, to give people a little bit of context, Karachi is Pakistan's biggest city. It is down in the south on the coast, well away from the tribal areas you mentioned where we're used to hearing about violence. How troubling is it to see this kind of militant violence down in Karachi?

RODRIGUEZ: It's very troubling for Pakistan. It's not unheard of. There have been other large attacks in Karachi. And also, it is well-known that the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups have maintained cells within Karachi for some time. So that is a major concern on the part of Pakistani security services.

LOUISE KELLY: OK, Alex, thanks very much.

RODRIGUEZ: OK, you're welcome.

LOUISE KELLY: That's Alex Rodriguez. He is Islamabad Bureau Chief for the LA Times.

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