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Pakistani officers face negligence charges
by Staff Writers
Karachi, Pakistan (UPI) Aug 5, 2011

Three Pakistani military officers face a court-martial on charges of negligence after a deadly militant attack on a naval base in Karachi in May.

Ten soldiers died and 15 were wounded in the suspected Taliban attack on the Mehran naval air base.

The siege started at 10:30 p.m., May 22, and the military ended the operation after 17 hours of fighting during which they freed more than a dozen foreigners, including 11 Chinese flying instructors.

The base commander, Cmdr. Raja Tahir -- who was removed from authority two days after the attack -- and a subordinate captain and a commander will go on trial but no date has been set, senior naval officials told news media on condition of anonymity.

"They are being tried because they were at a responsible position and were responsible for the security and other affairs of the base," an unnamed official said.

The Taliban claimed the attack was in retaliation for the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs May 2 in Abbottabad.

Security forces killed two of the attackers and third killed himself with explosives. The three men were disguised as naval officers and appeared to have detailed knowledge of the base and where to find the hangars containing surveillance planes.

They used rocket-propelled grenades to damage and destroy several of the warplanes, including two multi-million dollar Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion anti-submarine surveillance aircraft, believed to have been the prime target of the attack.

Attacks in Karachi are of particular concern to Western forces fighting in Afghanistan because the main overland supply route starts in the city.

In November, about 20 people, including five policemen, died and 100 people were injured when militants attempted to storm the Criminal Investigation Department building in Karachi.

During the attack, a truck laden with explosives slammed into a security wall around the building and exploded. Witnesses said the blast left a crater 40 feet across in front of the severely damaged building.

Tensions between Pakistan and its allies, in particular the United States, have been strained not only because of apparent security lapses surrounding Pakistan's military installations but because of military connections with attackers.

A week after the attack on the Mehran naval air base, military authorities in Lahore arrested a former Pakistani navy commando, Kamran Ahmed, and his younger brother Zaman Ahmed, for aiding the attackers.

Kamran Ahmed, who joined the navy in 1993, was detained on charges of providing the attackers with maps of the base.

Kamran Ahmed served at the Iqbal Naval base in Karachi until 1997 and was later transferred to the Mehran naval base, where an assault on a senior officer led to a court-martial and his discharge from service in 2003. The military court had further declared Kamran Ahmed unfit for the job because of his extremist views, a report in the PakTribune newspaper said at the time.

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