Monday, May 23, 2011

Chinese amongst hostages in Karachi raid

Chinese military personnel have been taken hostage after terrorists attacked a Pakistan air force base in Karachi. Official sources said around a dozen militants launched the attack overnight destroying two aircraft, one said to be a US-made P-3C Orion aircraft.

Reports on Monday said at least 11 people were dead amongst them five naval officers, a ranger soldier and a firefighter. The Pakistan Taleban said they were responsible for the attack, claiming it was in revenge for the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The violence began around 23:00 [18:00 GMT] Sunday, when 10 to 15 terrorists launched their assault carrying hand grenades, automatic weapons and rockets. The battle was still raging as the sun rose over Karachi with sporadic gunfire heard around 06:15 [01:00 GMT].


The BBC reported on Monday that amongst an unknown number of hostages were several Chinese military personnel, though details were sketchy. It is not known why the Chinese were at the base, though China has been building close ties with Pakistan recently. The Chinese state news agency did not immediately report the taking of hostages and had only a few lines on the attack [Xinhua]. CCTV News reported hostages "may have been taken" and referred to four Chinese engineers.


The attack on the Faisal Base located around 10 km from Karachi international airport will be further embarrassment to the Pakistan government. The government and military came under a barage of criticism after it emerged Osama bin Laden has apparently slipped below their radar and was living close to a Pakistan military base.

The base attacked on Sunday is home to the Pakitan Air Force and is also used by the air arms of the Pakistan Army and Navy as well as by the VVIP squadron. All air surveillance movements over the sea, whether by the PAF or by the Army or by the Pakistan Navy, are also controlled from the base.The fact that only a dozen or so militants could inflict so much damage, will raise many questions.

The raid is 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.

As the military tried to regain control of the base, reports from the area were difficult to obtain. Media organisations have been kept away and few TV news stations are broadcasting live pictures from the scene. Channel News Asia placed the item at the top of its reports, and CCTV News also headlined with the story, but it is far from saturation coverage [CNN / Reuters / CTV / Dawn]

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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