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Militants attack Pakistani naval airbase

Flames and smoke erupt from a Pakistani military air base after an attack by militants, in Karachi, May 22, 2011. RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images

ISLAMABAD - Islamic militants possibly linked to al Qaeda launched a robust attack Sunday night, targeting a Pakistani Navy airbase in the country's southern port city of Karachi.

At least 15 armed militants stormed the Mehran naval base near Karachi's international airport and exchanged fire with local security staff, according to a Pakistani intelligence official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.

Eyewitnesses said that at least four bodies were recovered in the first hour after the shooting began, but it was not known if they were militants or naval personnel.

Pakistan's privately-owned ARY NEWS TV channel reported that a U.S.-supplied P3C "Orion" aerial reconnaissance aircraft caught fire.

Pakistan operates a small number of Orions - a U.S.-manufactured aircraft equipped to deal with naval and sea warfare.

Sunday night's attack comes less than a month after U.S. Navy SEALs targeted and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan's northern city of Abbottabad. Bin Laden's killing was followed by promises of revenge from al Qaeda and the Taliban, who pledged to step up their attacks on Pakistani defense forces.

A Western diplomat based in Islamabad who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity said today's attack "will underscore the extent to which Pakistan needs to redouble its efforts against Islamic militants."

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