Karachi airport cleared of militants, flight operations resumed

KARACHI: Flight operations resumed at the Karachi airport with the first flight departing for Islamabad.

Operations had been suspended after heavily armed militants launched an assault on Pakistan´s busiest airport in Karachi, leaving at least 30 dead including 10 militants in a six-hour siege that the army quelled at dawn on Monday.

Explosions and gunfire rang out as the attackers, equipped with suicide vests, grenades and rocket launchers, battled security forces in one of the most brazen attacks in years in Pakistan´s biggest city.

Authorities said all 10 militants were killed and that the bodies of 18 victims, including security personnel and four airport workers, had been identified at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC).

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has accepted the responsibility of the attack.
KARACHI (Monitoring Desk): Pakistan’s military on Monday declared an end to an all-night offensive to quell a Taliban siege of Karachi airport that left 19 people including security personnel dead and 10 militants.

“The attack is over and we have cleared the area of all militants and we will hand over the airport to the Civil Aviation Authority at 12:00 pm (0700 GMT),” a spokesman for the paramilitary Rangers Sibtain Rizvi, told reporters after nearly 12 hours of fighting.

The attack at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi began just before midnight Sunday and raged until dawn, when the military said that all 10 attackers had been killed after they had stormed two areas equipped with suicide vests, grenades and rocket launchers.

But after authorities initially declared the area cleared, a reporter witnessed fresh gunfire break out inside the airport — where explosions and fires had erupted during the night — prompting security forces to relaunch the operation.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group said the attack was in revenge for its late leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November.

TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid also dismissed the Pakistani government´s recent offer of a new round of peace talks as a ruse, and promised more attacks to come.

“Pakistan used peace talks as a tool of war,” he told. “We have yet to take revenge for the deaths of hundreds of innocent tribal women and children in Pakistani air strikes.

“It´s just the beginning, we have taken revenge for one (Mehsud), we have to take revenge for hundreds.” Talks to end the TTP´s bloody seven-year insurgency in Pakistan have been underway since February, with little clear progress made so far.

Huge suicide blasts

The assault will raise fresh concerns about Pakistan´s shaky security situation, and questions about how militants were able to penetrate the airport, which serves one of the world´s biggest cities.

Officials said the gunmen entered from two sides of the airport at around 11:00 pm on Sunday — the terminal used for the hajj pilgrimage to Makkah, and an engineering section close to an old terminal that is no longer in use.

Three huge blasts were witnessed as suicide bombers detonated their explosives.

Smoke was seen billowing from the airport as fires raged close to planes parked on the runway, while militants, some dressed in army uniform, clashed with the airport´s security force who were backed by police, paramilitary squads and elite commandos. A senior intelligence official said it appeared the militants had aimed to hijack a plane that passengers were boarding at the main terminal, but that when they were repelled they went on the rampage.

“The passenger plane at Jinnah terminal was their target and when they failed to reach there they destroyed two private terminals in frustration,” he told. After the attack was quelled, a bomb disposal expert in full protective gear was seen walking from the site carrying a suicide vest and a bag full of hand grenades.

“Seven terrorists were killed by the security forces while three blew themselves up,” Rizwan Akhtar, director-general of the paramilitary Rangers, told reporters.

’Thank God I am alive’

Broken glass and spent gun magazines littered the engineering section where the first exchange of gunfire took place.

“I heard fierce firing and then saw the terrorists firing at security forces… Thank God I am alive, this is very scary,” said witness Sarmad Hussain, an employee of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).The city´s Jinnah Hospital said that 19 bodies had been brought there, including eight airport security personnel, a ranger, a civil aviation official and four PIA staff. Another 22 people were wounded, hospital spokeswoman Dr Seemi Jamali told.

The assault forced the closure of the airport, but the military said it would be ready to resume services later in the day.