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Pak Taliban comes close to hijacking Karachi airport; over 28 dead

09 June 2014

Militants launched a brazen attack on Karachi International Airport on Sunday night, killing at least 18 people and seizing control of part of the airport in Pakistan's largest city for more than five hours.

Latest reports said a total of 28 people, including 10 terrorists, were killed in the deadly airport attack. There were 18 bodies and 24 wounded in hospital, the BBC quoted Dr Semi Jamali, head of Jinnah hospital's emergency department.

The Pakistan Taliban has clearly claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid said its fighters planned to hijack planes.

"The main goal of this attack was to damage the government, including by hijacking planes and destroying state installations," Reuters quoted Shahidullah Shahid as saying.

India's ministry of external affairs was quick to condemn the ''brazen'' attack on the airport, saying it "underlines the magnitude of danger posed by terrorism".

Authorities in Islamabad said the ''well-coordinated'' attack involved 10 assailants disguised as airport security staff, who were armed with grenades, rocket launchers and assault weapons. Some of them were also wearing 'suicide vests'.

They battled Pakistani security forces through the night before all the assailants were slain, officials said.

Several large fires broke out at Jinnah International Airport, but all airline passengers escaped unharmed, according to a Pakistani army spokesman.

But the siege, one of the worst security breaches at a Pakistani airport, is raising serious questions about the country's ability to protect its major transit hubs amid the persistent threat of terrorism.

The attack comes as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country's military have been considering a major offensive against the Pakistani Taliban, which has been waging a bloody insurgency.

''This act of terror is unforgivable,'' Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Pakistan's defense minister, told local television reporters. ''The state will give an appropriate response to such cowardly acts of terror. Those who plan and those who execute the terrorist attacks will be defeated.''

Shahid said the attack should be viewed as a sign that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's efforts to engage the group in peace talks had failed.

''The message to the Pakistani government is that we are still alive to react to the killings of innocent people in bomb attacks on their villages,'' said Shahid, adding the attack followed months of intensive planning.

It was unclear how such an assault could occur at what is supposed to be a heavily fortified airport. The attack, which began at 11 pm and lasted until dawn, is likely to be another blow to Pakistan's efforts to lure international business to help its struggling economy.

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