ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's South Asia wing has claimed responsibility for hijacking a Pakistani naval ship and trying to use it to fire rockets at U.S. vessels in the Arabian Sea, in the first major assault by the newly created group.
The SITE monitoring service quoted its spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, as saying a group of militants had succeeded in seizing control of the Pakistani frigate PNS Zulfiqar and tried to use it to attack nearby U.S. vessels.
"These mujahideen had taken control of the Pakistani ship, and they were advancing towards the American fleet when the Pakistani army stopped them," he said.
"As a result, the mujahideen, the lions of Allah and benefactors of the Ummah, sacrificed their lives for Allah, and the Pakistani soldiers spoiled their hereafter by giving up their lives in defense of the enemies of the Ummah the Americans."
The foiled attack comes at a time when regional powers are already concerned about stability as U.S.-led forces continue to withdraw from neighboring Afghanistan, potentially creating a security gap for insurgents to exploit.
The attack, which lasted several hours, also shows just how much the Islamist militants are capable of striking at the heart of Pakistan's vast security apparatus and raises questions about the nuclear-armed nation's ability to guard its installations.
The Pakistani Taliban, closely allied with al Qaeda, had earlier said that the Sept. 6 attack was carried out with the help of insiders. Pakistan later arrested a number of navy personnel on suspicion of collaborating with the attackers.