Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed that Pakistani Navy officers were involved in the failed attempt to hijack a Pakistani warship and launch missiles at US Navy vessels in the Indian Ocean.
AQIS’ spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, made the claim today in a statement released on his Twitter account. Mahmoud’s statement was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Mahmoud had previously claimed on Sept. 13 that AQIS executed the attack on the Pakistani warship, and published a diagram purporting to show the layout of the PNS Zulfiqar. He said that the attackers had planned to take control of the PNS Zulfiqar and launch missiles at US warships in the Indian Ocean. The PNS Zulfiqar carries at least eight C-802 surface to surface anti-ship missiles. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent claims 2 attacks in Pakistan.]
In today’s statement, Mahmoud accuses the Pakistani military and media outlets of attempting “to deliberately cover up the truth of this operation and the nature of its objectives,” according to SITE. “In an obvious attempt to deceive the world, the official spokesmen for the army and navy portrayed the attack as targeting the Pakistani Navy alone, and its arsenal in the city of Karachi in particular.”
But Mahmoud says the “true objective of the operation … is the American naval fleet that is stationed in the Indian Ocean.”
The AQIS spokesman denied that the Sept. 6 assault on the PNS Zulfiqar at the naval base in Karachi was carried out by “intruders,” and instead said that Pakistani naval “officers” executed the attack.
“The official Pakistani story alleged that the attackers were merely a group of intruders that breached a military institution of the Pakistani Navy, and broke in from outside,” Mahmoud says. “However, all the participants in this fearless operation were officers serving in the ranks of the Pakistani Navy.”
The naval officers, Mahmoud claims, “responded to the appeal of the scholars and jihad and joined the ranks of the mujahideen.”
Mahmoud described the officers’ involvement in the attack as a “rebellion” and not just an attempt to strike at the US.
“Therefore, this operation does not represent an attack on the Americans alone, but it is a rebellion against the Pakistani Navy by its own elements, striking the policy of humiliation and subjugation to America, which the Satanic alliance – represented in the Americanized generals, selfish politicians, and corrupt government employees – imposes,” Mahmoud says.
Mahmoud goes on to explain AQIS’ “reasons for targeting America.” The reasons are standard for al Qaeda, and include the US’ perceived war on Islam, and America’s support for Israel, Muslim countries, and “secular movements.”
The US Navy was chosen as a target because “through its naval military superiority, America is able to control ours straits, our channels, and our waters, and loot the fortunes of our Ummah [Muslim community],” Mahmoud says.
Reports of collusion within Pakistani Navy
While Mahmoud’s claim that Pakistani naval officers executed the attack on the PNS Zulfiqar cannot be proven, Pakistani officials and press reports indicate that at least some of the attackers are members of the Pakistani military.
Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s Defense Minister, said that “some of the navy staff of commissioned ranks and some outsiders” were involved in the attack, according to Dawn.
The Nation reported that a former naval officer known as Awais Jakhrani was killed during the attack. Jakhrani, the son of a Karachi Police Assistant Inspector General, had “links with [a] banned organization.”
Additionally, three “Navy officials” were arrested in Quetta in Baluchistan while trying to flee to Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s Navy has long been thought to be infiltrated by al Qaeda. In late May 2011, Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad wrote an article in the Asia Times on the jihadist attack on Pakistan Naval Base Mehran in Karachi. That attack was carried out by Brigade 313, a unit led by al Qaeda and Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami leader Ilyas Kashmiri. In his article, Shahzad noted that Pakistani officials had begun investigating jihadist “groupings” within the Navy in the spring of 2011 and discovered a “sizeable al Qaeda infiltration within the navy’s ranks.”
After military officials detained and interrogated suspected jihadist infiltrators, al Qaeda threatened to launch attacks against military bases. The Pakistani military opened negotiations with al Qaeda, which ultimately failed. Then Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in Abbottabad on May 1, 2011. Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani jihadists decided to take revenge, obtaining detailed information on Mehran from their Navy infiltrators.
“Within a week, insiders at PNS Mehran provided maps, pictures of different exit and entry routes taken in daylight and at night, the location of hangers and details of likely reaction from external security forces,” Shahzad wrote.
Shahzad’s article, which was published on May 27, 2011, is widely believed to have resulted in his murder at the hands of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. He was kidnapped and murdered just two days after it was published.