PAF hit seven times since 9/11
Though it has not suffered as heavily as the Pakistan Army has since the start of the US-led War on Terror after the 9/11 episode, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has still been rattled at least seven times during these last 11 years.
While the Pakistan Army was ‘marked’ right from the start of the War on Terror by the terrorists, the first time the PAF was hit since 9/11 was on November 1, 2007, when a suicide bomber had rammed his motorcycle into a PAF bus near the city of Sargodha. Seven PAF officers stationed at the Mushaf Airbase had embraced martyrdom in this November 1, 2007 attack, which had otherwise seen some 11 people perishing overall.
On December 10, 2007, a PAF employees’ bus carrying school-going children was again attacked during the morning rush hours by a suicide bomber outside the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra, injuring seven people.
On January 18, 2008, four rockets were fired at short intervals at PAF’s Kamra facility. Two of these rockets had hit the Mirage Rebuild Factory in the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.Luckily, no casualties were reported in this terror attack.
On August 12, 2008, a Pakistani Air Force bus carrying staffers was targeted on a major road near Peshawar downtown and 13 people were resultantly killed in this terror bid. Five among the dead were serving Air Force personnel.
The Taliban had immediately taken responsibility of this incident, which was seen as retaliation for the Pakistani airstrikes in the lawless Bajaur Agency.
“The New York Times” had written after this attack: “The Taliban response was immediate and costly. Pakistani security officials said the airstrikes broke a siege around Khar, the capital of Bajaur, where emboldened Taliban fighters had been digging trenches in what appeared to be an effort to encircle the town and overrun it.” On October 23, 2009, a suicide bomber had killed eight people in an attack on a check post on GT Road near the Kamra Air base. No fewer than 17 people were wounded seriously in this attack.
And on August 16, 2012, terrorists went on rampage and targeted this Pakistan Air Force installation yet again. At least eight militants were killed in a counter operation that lasted over five hours, though a PAF security official had also lost his life in the fire exchange. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab had later claimed that the attack was a revenge for the deaths of Baitullah Mehsud and Osama bin Laden. The September 19, 2012 attack on a PAF vehicle Wednesday (yesterday) at Kohat Road, Peshawar, was hence the seventh time since 9/11 that this air warfare branch of the Pakistan armed forces was struck by terrorists.
It is noteworthy that the Minhas or Kamra Air base at District Attock has alone come under attack four times since December 10, 2007. This PAF base, which is located 60 kilometres north-west of Islamabad, is home to the PAC that assembles Mirage and JF-17 Thunder fighter jets.
A peek into the media archives shows that on February 20, 2003, Pakistan’s 16th Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir had met an accidental death when his plane (Fokker F-27) had crashed during a routine flight near Kohat.
Mushaf Ali Mir, who himself was a fighter pilot and air operations strategist, had commanded the strategic aerial combat missions during the civil war in Afghanistan, besides heading the PAF forces during the 2001 Indo-Pakistan standoff. A “Time” magazine edition (dated August 31, 2003) had quoted an investigative journalist Gerald Posner claiming in his book “Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11,” that Osama bin Laden had inked a pact with the Pakistani intelligence agencies through (late) ACM Mushaf Ali Mir in 1996 to ensure protection, arms and supplies for al-Qaeda.
The afore-cited “Time” magazine article “Confessions of a terrorist” had asserted that US journalist Gerald Posner had accused Saudi Arabia of funding Osama bin Laden and not seeking his extradition, as long as al-Qaeda kept its long-standing promise to direct fundamentalism away from the kingdom. Journalist Gerald Posner had accused Saudi Arabia of sending funds through three royal-prince intermediaries.
The “Time” magazine article had then gone on to ink a startling revelation: “Those three Saudi princes all perished within days of one another. On July 22, 2002, Prince Ahmed was felled by a heart attack at age 43. One day later Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, 41, was killed in what was called a high-speed car accident. The last member of the trio, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, officially “died of thirst” while traveling east of Riyadh one week later. And seven months after that, Mushaf Ali Mir, by then Pakistan’s Air Marshal, perished in a plane crash in clear weather over the unruly NWFP, along with his wife and closest confidants.”