Saturday 29 November 2014

Pakistani Taliban attack airport in Karachi, 26 dead

Syed Raza Hassan

Published 09/06/2014 | 06:41

A Pakistani soldier takes position at Jinnah International Airport  where security forces are fighting with gunmen who disguised themselves as police guards and stormed a terminal used for VIPs and cargo, Sunday night, June 8, 2014, in Pakistan. The airport attack still was ongoing early Monday in Karachi, a sprawling port city on the southern coast of Pakistan, although officials said all the passengers had been evacuated.  (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)
A Pakistani soldier takes position at Jinnah International Airport. AP
Police commandos take up positions as they arrive at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Reuters
Smoke billows from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Reuters
A policeman with a gun stands on a vehicle as smoke bellows from Jinnah International airport in Karachi. Reuters
Paramilitary soldiers arrive at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Reuters
Paramilitary rangers arrive at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Reuters
Fire illuminates the sky above Karachi airport terminal where security forces fought with gunmen who stormed an airport terminal. AP
Security forces surround Karachi airport following an attack by gunmen disguised as police guards (AP)
Pakistani security troops rush to Karachi airport terminal following attacks by gunmen (AP)
Fire illuminates the sky above Karachi airport terminal where security forces are fighting with attackers (AP)
Commandos get ready to enter the airport terminal (AP)
Troops arrive at Karachi airport following the attack by gunmen who stormed a terminal used for VIPs and cargo (AP)
Pakistani security troops rush to Karachi airport terminal following attacks by unknown gunmen in Pakistan. Gunmen stormed an airport terminal used for VIPs and cargo in Pakistan's largest city on Sunday night, killing and wounding scores of people, officials said. AP
Volunteers look at dead bodies of people killed during an attack by unknown gunmen on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan. AP
Pakistani security personnel surround the Karachi airport following an attack by unknown gunmen disguised as police guards who stormed a terminal used for VIPs and cargo. AP

Militants stormed Pakistan's biggest airport on Sunday and at least 26 people were killed in a night-long battle at one of the country's most high-profile targets.

The assault on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan's sprawling commercial hub of 18 million people, took place as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government tries to engage Taliban militants in talks to end years of fighting.

The attack began just before midnight when 10 gunmen wearing military uniforms shot their way into the airport's old terminal used mainly for charter and executive flights.

The Pakistani Taliban, an alliance of insurgent groups fighting to topple the government and set up a sharia state, claimed responsibility, saying it was in response to army attacks on their strongholds along the Afghan border.

"It is a message to the Pakistan government that we are still alive to react over the killings of innocent people in bomb attacks on their villages," said Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman.

The attack all but destroys prospects for significant peace talks with the government of Sharif, who came to power last year promising to find a negotiated solution to years of violence.

At the airport, gun battles went on for five hours and television pictures showed fire raging as ambulances ferried casualties away. At least three loud explosions were heard as militants wearing suicide vests blew themselves up.

Twitter reaction to the attack was immediate with many sending prayers to those security members who died in the line of duty.

Pakistani commandos get ready to enter Karachi airport terminal following attacks by unknown gunmen on Sunday night, June 8, 2014, in Pakistan. Gunmen stormed an airport terminal used for VIPs and cargo in Pakistan's largest city on Sunday night, killing and wounding scores of people, officials said. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)
Pakistani commandos get ready to enter Karachi airport terminal following attacks by unknown gunmen on Sunday night
A Pakistani soldier takes position at Jinnah International Airport. AP
Pakistani police commandos help an injured colleague at Jinnah International Airport where security forces are fighting with gunmen who disguised themselves as police guards and stormed a terminal used for VIPs and cargo
Fire illuminates the sky above Karachi airport terminal where security forces fought with gunmen who stormed an airport terminal. AP
Paramedic staff move an Airport Security Force (ASF) official, who was wounded in an attack at Jinnah International Airport, outside Jinnah hospital in Karachi
Pakistan Army soldiers sit on a vehicle as they arrive at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi June 9, 2014. Gunmen attacked one of Pakistan's biggest airports on Sunday and at least 23 people were killed, including all 10 of the attackers, media reported
Pakistani security troops rush to Karachi airport terminal following attacks by unknown gunmen in Pakistan. Gunmen stormed an airport terminal used for VIPs and cargo in Pakistan's largest city on Sunday night, killing and wounding scores of people, officials said. AP
Pakistani security personnel surround the Karachi airport following an attack by unknown gunmen disguised as police guards who stormed a terminal used for VIPs and cargo. AP
Volunteers look at dead bodies of people killed during an attack by unknown gunmen on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan. AP
Paramilitary soldiers arrive at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi June 9, 2014. Gunmen attacked one of Pakistan's biggest airports in Karachi on Sunday, killing at least five people, police said. REUTERS/Athar Hussain
Pakistani police officers display ammunition confiscated from attackers at the Jinnah International Airport, Monday, June 9, 2014, in Karachi, Pakistan. Gunmen disguised as police guards attacked a terminal at Pakistan's busiest airport with machine guns and a rocket launcher during a five-hour siege that killed over a dozen people as explosions echoed into the night, while security forces retaliated and killed all the attackers, officials said Monday. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)
Paramilitary rangers arrive at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Reuters
Smoke billows from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi June 9, 2014. Gunmen attacked one of Pakistan's biggest airports on Sunday and at least 23 people were killed, including all 10 of the attackers, media reported
Smoke billows from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi June 9, 2014. Gunmen attacked one of Pakistan's biggest airports in Karachi on Sunday, killing at least five people, police said
A policeman with a gun stands on a vehicle as smoke bellows from Jinnah International airport in Karachi. Reuters
An Airport Security Force (ASF) soldier (L) leads a colleague on a stretcher, who was wounded in an attack at Jinnah International Airport, outside Jinnah hospital in Karachi
Paramilitary soldiers arrive at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Reuters
Smoke billows from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Reuters
The dead bodies of terrorists who attacked the Jinnah International Airport are shown by Pakistani police officers
Police commandos take up positions as they arrive at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Reuters
A member of the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) stands near to the explosives and hand grenades, which have been defused, along a sidewalk outside Jinnah International Airport Karachi
Pakistani police officers display ammunition confiscated from attackers at the Jinnah International Airport, Monday, June 9, 2014, in Karachi, Pakistan
An armoured personnel carrier (APC) carrying a policeman in plainclothes who was killed during firing, is driven to the hospital, from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi

But creating awareness of the event - and the damage and casualties caused as a result - was forefront for Twitterati, with vivid imagery and shocking footage retweeted across the social platform. 

A number of these images can be seen here.

By dawn on Monday, the army said the airport had been secured but heavy smoke rose above the building.

"Ten militants aged between 20 and 25 have been killed by security forces," said a spokesman for the paramilitary Rangers force. "A large cache of arms and ammunition has been recovered from the militants."

Pakistan's paramilitary force said that the attackers were ethnic Uzbeks. Pakistani officials often blame foreign militants holed up in lawless areas on the Afghan border for staging attacks alongside the Pakistani Taliban around the country.

"Three militants blew themselves up and seven were killed by security forces," Rizwan Akhtar, the regional head of the paramilitary Rangers, said in televised remarks. "The militants appear to be Uzbek."

Officials said no aircraft had been damaged.

Earlier, officials said all flights had been diverted.

One passenger on board a flight on the Karachi airport runway live tweeted his terrifying ordeal.

Syed Saim A. Rizvi caused quite a stir on Twitter as he congratulated the Pakistan Army for the way in which they handled the situation.

syed.JPG 

Peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban have failed in recent months, dampening hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement with the insurgency, which continues attacks against government and security targets.

Pakistan's Taliban are allied with but separate from the Afghan Taliban.

Reuters

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