Terror group’s “South Asia” branch claims it perpetrated the attack after Pakistani Taliban also claimed responsibility for it.
Al Qaeda’s new South Asia branch has claimed responsibility for a weekend raid on a Karachi naval yard that left a sailor and three attackers dead, saying former military officers had helped in the attack.
It is the first attack claimed by the terror network’s new wing, whose creation was announced by chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri last week.
The claims, made on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York, will likely add to concerns about extremist infiltration of the Pakistani military’s ranks after the Taliban, who also claimed to be behind the attack, said they received inside help.
Defense minister Khawaja Asif had voiced concerns when addressing Parliament on Wednesday, saying: “We cannot rule out the inside help in this attack because without it the miscreants could not breach security.”
Al Qaeda in South Asia was launched last week in what experts see as a bid to remain relevant in the face of rising competition by the Islamic State.
“The operation near Karachi shore was an attack by Al Qaeda in the Subcontinent,” an Urdu-language statement from the group sent to AFP said. It claimed that the target of the raid was a “U.S. supply ship” and said the dead attackers included former Pakistan navy officers. It was not immediately possible to confirm whether a U.S. ship was present at the port. Militant groups in the region often exaggerate claims about attacks.
Commodore Nadeem Bukhari, a spokesman for the Pakistan Navy said an investigation into the attack was under way. “It cannot be ruled out but it is still premature to say that it was an inside work,” he said.
Al Qaeda said the officers quit their jobs and joined the militants after becoming radicalized. Al Qaeda was previously linked to a 2011 raid on another Karachi naval base that lasted 17 hours resulting in the deaths of 10 personnel and destruction of two U.S.-made spy planes.
The new hardline Jamaat ul Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban sent a “greeting card” to journalists on Thursday gloating over the 9/11 attacks and hailing former Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.