Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed that the attack on Karachi airport was carried out to avenge the killing of former TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike
Karachi: The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for a major assault on the country’s largest airport in which at least 28 people were killed, including 10 terrorists.
Smoke rises after terrorists launched an assault at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi yesterday. Pakistan’s security forces battled the militants for nearly 6 hours before regaining control of the airport. Pic/AFP
The 10 terrorists divided into two groups of five attacked the Jinnah International Airport late last night, resulting in a six-hour gun battle with security forces involving army, paramilitary Rangers, police and Airport Security Force.
Explosions and gunfire rang out as the attackers wearing military uniforms and suicide vests, and armed with grenades and rocket launchers attacked the airport in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city and financial hub.
Armed to the teeth: The ten militants were armed with sophisticated machine guns, rocket launchers and grenades when they laid seige to Karachi airport yesterday. pic/AFP
“We carried out this attack on the Karachi airport and it is a message to the Pakistani government that we are still alive to react over the killings of innocent people in bomb attacks on their villages,” TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement to the media. He said that the attack was also carried out to avenge the killing of former TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike.
“It’s just the beginning, we have taken revenge for one (Mehsud), we have to take revenge for hundreds,” Shahid said. He dismissed the Pakistani government’s peace plan as a “tool of war”.
Akhtar said it was clear the terrorists came prepared for a long siege of the airport and to cause maximum damage to aircraft and airport installations. Some of the attackers are said to be Uzbek militants.
For nearly six hours the airport was shut and all flights diverted as heavy exchange of gunfire took place and thick plumes of smoke and fire could be seen rising from inside the runway area where the terrorists took cover in the hangar and engineering workshops.
“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,” said Sagheer Ahmed, the Sindh minister for health.
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.
According to reports, eight ASF personnel, two Rangers officials, one police officer and three Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) officials are among the dead.
“The airport has been cleared. The security forces killed seven terrorists while three blew themselves up during the fight,” Director General, Rangers, Major General Rizwan Akhtar said.
“Soon we will hand over the airport to the civilian aviation authority to start its normal operations,” he said. Earlier, the military had declared an end to its operation to secure the airport but were forced to relaunch an assault after fresh firing erupted.
The carnage was reminiscent of the deadly raid carried out by 15 TTP militants in May, 2011, on the Mehran naval airbase here in which the attackers killed some 18 navy personnel and damaged aircraft before being killed in a counter-attack. The attack means that peace talks between the government and the Taliban are effectively dead and authorities would have to find a way to control the militants who have killed more than 40,000 people since 2004.