LONDON – The newly-formed branch of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent has botched its first attempt at a terror attack after jihadists mistook a Pakistani naval ship for a U.S. aircraft carrier, British newspaper Daily Mail claimed.
Ten heavily armed militants from the terror cell had planned to storm an American military vessel in Karachi’s sea dock – but found a Pakistani naval frigate in it’s place.
The men were easily overwhelmed before they could do any damage, investigators said, with three of the militants killed and the remaining seven arrested.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri formally announced the founding of a terror cell in the Indian subcontinent two weeks ago in the hope of reviving his ailing extremist group, which has suffered diminishing support since the unprecedented rise of rival Islamic extremist group ISIS.
Despite the failure of the terror attack on September 6, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent claimed responsibility – adding that the men involved were all former members of the Pakistani navy.
‘The Naval officers who were martyred on Saturday in the attack on Karachi were Al Qaeda members. They were trying to attack American marines and their cronies,’ the group said in a statement released last Thursday.
‘The Pakistani military men who died defending enemies of the Muslim nation…are cursed with hell’, they added, apparently still incorrectly believing the attacked vessel had been a U.S.aircraft carrier.
The craft the group intended to strike may have been the USS George Washington, believed to have been stationed off the coast of west Pakistan on the day of the incident, having left Japanese waters the previous day.
Investigators have also denied that the militants were all former members of the Pakistani navy, saying only one of the 10 men was from a naval background.
There were also suggestions that the attack may not even have been carried out by Al Qaeda at all, and that its increasingly desperate leadership is simply claiming credit for another group’s botched work in the hope it makes them appear more active than they are currently capable of being.
This line of inquiry appears to be reinforced by the delay of five days between the failed storming and Al Qaeda’s statement claiming responsibility – with the terror group likely waiting to see if the real culprits came forward to admit the embarrassing effort before claiming it for themselves.
A senior investigator speaking to the Telegraph described the attack as a ‘complete failure’ and suggested there may be further arrests relating to the incident.
‘They were well-equipped and came with the intention of taking a ship into their custody but they were caught in the initial stages,’ the unnamed source was quoted as saying.
The formation of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent was tailored to counter the flagging image of the group – which has suffered a reversal in fortunes since former leader Osama bin Laden died.