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Karachi airport under attack by gunmen

Karachi airport under attack by gunmen

Police say militants launched raid using grenades and automatic weapons, leaving at least 12 dead

» Media | Sunday, June 8, 2014 • Telegraph
Pakistan's army declared an end to a military operation following a six-hour long siege of the country's busiest airport in the southern city of Karachi.

Heavily armed gunmen disguised as police guards launched an audacious attack on Jinnah International Airport late on Sunday night, killing at least 12 people.

As many as 10 militants, carrying automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, fought their way into the airport's old terminal, forcing all flights to be suspended.

A huge blast was heard after one of the gunmen wearing a suicide vest blew up after he was shot. Six of the gunmen were killed and the remainder had been isolated and surrounded. Six others, including guards and civilian employees were also believed dead.

Major General Asim Bajwa said the pictures of fire had been of a building and no aircraft had been destroyed.

Initial reports indicated up to 10 gunmen had used a side entrance to attack a terminal used by VIPs but were prevented from reaching their target by security personnel. It was suggested that the assailants may have been attempting to hijack a plane.

No-one immediately claimed responsibility but suspicion will fall on the Pakistan Taliban, responsible for tens of thousands of killings during its seven-year insurgency.

Farooq Sattar, a senior figure with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political was on board, and described to The Telegraph how the aircraft reached the runway only to turn back as the sounds of gunfire exploded around them.

“They have told us we are safer on board and so the doors will stay shut,” he said. “But this aircraft is full of fuel and so are the other planes here. If God forbid the terrorists come here then there could be a terrible fire.”

Witnesses said they heard more than a dozen blasts and sporadic gunfire as Army personnel rushed to join the firefight.
Television footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the airport where a plane was reportedly on fire.

Police sealed off the airport and began evacuating the passenger terminal, with local officers saying a siege was under way.
Rao Muhammad Anwar, a senior police officer, said the militants were exchanging gunfire with security guards.

“Exchange of fire is continuing. We don’t know the exact number of the attackers but suspect four to six terrorists have attacked the airport,” he said.

Doctor Seemi Jamali, who is head of the city's main Jinnah Hospital, said "Five dead bodies have been brought in, and one injured was also brought to the hospital."

She added that three were Airport Security Force personnel and two were civilian employees of Pakistan International Airlines. The wounded was also an ASF official.

Sarmad Hussain, an official with the state-run Pakistan International Airlines, told how he heard explosions and gunfire as the attack broke out. "I was working at my office when I heard big blasts - several blasts - and then there were heavy gunshots," he said, adding that he and a colleague jumped out one of the windows to get away, and his colleague broke his leg
.
When Mr Hussain came out of the building, he saw smoke billowing from the terminal, he added.

Although riven by splits and infighting, the Pakistan Taliban recently abandoned a ceasefire after peace talks with a government desperate to end the bloodshed stalled.

Security is a major concern at Pakistan’s airports. The US will not allow passenger airlines to fly direct to its soil.

The city was the scene of an assault in 2011 when more than a dozen gunmen attacked the headquarters of Pakistan’s Navy’s Naval Air Arm at PNS Mehran, in a raid claimed by the Pakistan Taliban. Some 18 military personnel were killed and two US-built surveillance planes were destroyed.

Telegraph
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