Pakistan Taliban claim deadly airport attack

2014-06-09 18:05
Smoke rises above the Jinnah International Airport where security forces battled militants in Karachi, Pakistan. (Fareed Khan, AP)

Smoke rises above the Jinnah International Airport where security forces battled militants in Karachi, Pakistan. (Fareed Khan, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Karachi - The Pakistani Taliban on Monday threatened more attacks after claiming responsibility for a brazen five-hour assault on the country's busiest airport in which gunmen disguised as police guards stormed the international airport in Karachi, set off explosions and killed 18 people.

The claim further diminished prospects for a resumption of peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban that officials had hoped could bring an end to the group's bloody, years-long campaign seeking to overthrow the country's US-allied government.

The insurgency has shaken the stability of the nuclear-armed country, which borders Afghanistan, where international forces have been fighting the Afghan Taliban for more than a decade.

Peace talks floundered in recent weeks, and the Taliban called off a cease-fire they had declared during the negotiations. Since then, Pakistani troops have hit the group's hideouts with air strikes in the country's troubled northwestern region, killing dozens of suspected militants. Residents claim several civilians were also killed in the strikes.

The Taliban said the assault on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and the country's economic heart, was in revenge for the killing last November of the militant group's leader in a US drone strike

In a telephone call to The Associated Press, the group's spokesperson, Shahidullah Shahid, warned that "such attacks will continue until there is a permanent ceasefire."

The attack began late on Sunday when 10 gunmen, at least some disguised as policemen, stormed into a section of the sprawling airport where a terminal for VIP flights and cargo is located. They opened fire with machine guns and rocket launchers, sparking a battle with security forces that lasted until around dawn.

Heavy gunfire and multiple explosions were heard coming from the terminal amid the fighting. A major fire rose from the airport, illuminating the night sky in an orange glow as the silhouettes of jets could be seen. As dawn broke on Monday, smoke could still be seen billowing in the air.

At least some of the gunmen wore the uniform of the Airport Security Force, said an official at the scene near the terminal. All the attackers wore explosives vests, some of which were detonated when they were shot at by the police, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

Gutted

A cargo building was left completely gutted by the fire and the explosions, said Rizwan Akhtar, the chief of Pakistan's elite paramilitary Rangers.

Just before dawn, security forces regained control of the airport, and all 10 attackers were dead, Akhtar said. He said some of the attackers appeared to be Uzbeks but officials were still investigating to determine their identity and nationality.

At least 18 people were killed besides the attackers, mostly airport security or other airport personnel, according to Seemi Jamali from Karachi's Jinnah Hospital.

During the battle, airport operations were suspended and all incoming flights were diverted. An Emirates flight in Karachi bound for Dubai had to be cancelled and passengers were escorted off the plane because of the fighting, the Dubai-based carrier said.

Late on Monday afternoon, the airport reopened and was fully functioning, according to Shujaat Azeem, the prime minister's adviser for civil aviation.

Shahid, the spokesperson for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan - as the Pakistani Taliban are known - said the attack was to avenge the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Taliban chief who died in an American drone strike last November.

Mehsud's death was the last major killing of a militant commander under the controversial drone program.

The CIA, as reported by The Associated Press in May, has largely wound down its drone program over Pakistan, and there hasn't been a drone strike in Pakistan since Christmas.

Shahid said the attack on the Karachi airport had been planned out before the peace talks started and was put on hold during the negotiations.

Foothold

Security officials in Karachi had feared that if the peace talks broke down, their city would be a likely spot for militant retribution.

The Pakistani Taliban and their allies increasingly are gaining a foothold in Karachi, the country's largest city and the site of frequent militant attacks in the past. It is the country's economic hub and any militant activity targeting its airport would likely strike a heavy blow to foreign investment in the country.

In May 2011, militants waged an 18-hour siege at a naval base in Karachi, killing 10 people in an assault that deeply embarrassed the armed forces.

Meanwhile, the death toll from another deadly attack Sunday night rose to 24 in the Baluchistan town of Tuftan near the Iranian border. Militants attacked a group of Shiite Muslim religious pilgrims staying at a hotel after they returned to Pakistan.

Government official Ghulam Mustafa said that the bodies have been sent by helicopter to the provincial capital of Quetta.

There was no claim of responsibility for that incident, but Sunni Muslim extremists have often targeted Shiites because they don't consider them to be true Muslims.


- AP
Read more on:    pakistan  |  air travel
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Beauty

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The virtual world can be very tempting to escape into but focus on also being present and keeping your feet anchored in reality....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.