Islamabad: At least 23 persons, including 10 terrorists, were killed when heavily armed militants attacked the Jinnah International Airport in Pakistan's commercial hub Karachi even as fresh firing was heard early today, hours after security forces declared an end to the assault.
"All 10 terrorists have been killed, the airport secured and they were unable to damage any aircraft or installations," a spokesman of the military's Inter Services Pubic Relations (ISPR) said.
The terrorists were cornered and killed after they attacked the old airport terminal building late last night, posing as Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel.
However, Express News reported that three militants are still present inside the airport as fresh firing was heard near Isphani Hangar, which is the aircraft overhaul facility of the airport.
Meanwhile, Geo TV reported that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Smoke rises from the Karachi airport terminal after the militants' assault. Pic/AFP
The ISPR spokesman said that army units from the nearby Malir cantonment base, ASF commandos, paramilitary rangers and police had carried out the joint operation to clear the old airport area. Sophisticated machine guns and rocket launchers were recovered from the slain terrorists who were being identified, he said.
For nearly six hours the Jinnah international airport which is close to the old airport terminal was shut down and all flights diverted as exchange of gunfire took place and heavy plumes of smoke and fire could be seen rising from inside the runaway area where the terrorists took cover in the hanger and engineering workshops.
Several loud explosions were also heard but the spokesman confirmed that no aircraft was damaged nor any important assets or installations damaged during the operation. Sagheer Ahmed, the Sindh minister for health, told reporters that 13 people were killed in the attack.
"Those martyred include the ASF personnel, civilian engineers and personnel of CAA and PIA and a police officer while a dozen have also been injured and are admitted to hospital," he said.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif described the attack as cowardly and said it was another example of how terrorists were trying to destroy important installations and locations of the government. "But I can tell you these terrorists will not succeed in their aims and will be defeated," Asif said.
The attack was reminiscent of the deadly raid carried out by some 15 militants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban in May, 2011 on the Mehran naval airbase here in which the attackers killed some 18 personnel and damaged aircraft before being killed in a counter-attack.
The attack came days after a peace process between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan broke down and a ceasefire announced by the TTP was called off. Since then there has also been a major break in the TTP with the powerful Mehsud group announcing their separation from the militant outfit led by Maulana Fazlullah.
The Mehsud group commanders had warned of resuming attacks against the government and security personnel and installations.
Immediately after the daring attack all flight operations were suspended from the Jinnah international airport with flights not taking off and those scheduled to land in Karachi were diverted to Nawabshah and Quetta or turned back to their original destinations.
Police sources said that the heavily armed terrorists dressed in ASF uniforms forced their way into the old terminal building from two gates and caught the security personnel on duty unaware.
Security forces including military troops, ASF and police commandos surrounded a hanger and workshop near the old terminal where the terrorists took control after entering the runaway from the old terminal building.
Pakistan forces seize wound healing devices from attackers
Tehreek-e-Taliban militants, who launched a major assault on Pakistan's largest airport, were carrying XStat devices which can heal gunshot wounds within seconds and were aiming for a long siege of the facility, a security official said.
"This devices are used to stop bleeding and heal gunshot wounds in 15 to 20 seconds," a source in the paramilitary rangers told PTI.
The security forces found XStat or Faxziat devices from the bags of these terrorists who are said to be of Uzbek-origin. "Clearly they came with a long siege of the airport in mind," he added.
The device, normally used by military medics and emergency services, is an applicator filled with dozens of tiny sponges that soak up a ton of blood when injected into an open wound.