KARACHI: Pakistani officials say a brazen five-hour attack by militants on the international airport in Karachi left 28 people, including 10 attackers, dead but police managed to regain control of the terminal.
Rizwan Akhtar, the paramilitary Rangers chief, said all 10 “terrorists” who attacked the Jinnah International Airport have been killed.
He said Pakistani forces were combing through the terminal and would hand it back to civilian authority later Monday.
The attack started late Sunday when gunmen disguised as police guards stormed the terminal after opening fire with machine guns and a rocket launcher.
Akhtar said some of the attackers were apparently Uzbeks.
The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack all but destroys prospects for significant peace talks with the government of Nawaz Sharif, who came to power last year promising to find a negotiated solution to years of violence.
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.
Prime minister's adviser on civil aviation Shujaat Azeem said the airport will be operational at 4 pm.
The prime minister has directed aviation and airport authorities to facilitate passengers by providing them all possible facilities.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed airport authorities to reopen the airport for routine operations without unnecessary delay.
Mohmand said the government will have to adopt a long-term strategy to tackle the problem of terrorism.
PTI-appointed member of the government committee to negotiate with the TTP Rustam Shah Mohmand said any talks for cessation of hostilities with the TTP will now be held on the government's conditions.
Those killed included 11 airport security guards and four workers from Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
Their bodies were taken to the Jinnah hospital where another 26 wounded people were being treated.
Security forces just said they have cleared the Karachi airport of militants nearly 12 hours after the start of a siege that left at least 24 people dead, a paramilitary official said.
“The attack is over and we have cleared the area of all militants, and we will hand over the airport to the Civil Aviation Authority at 12.00 pm (0700 GMT),” paramilitary Rangers spokesman Sibtain Rizvi told reporters.
Firefighters extinguish fires after militants attack Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on June 9, 2014. — Photo by AFP
The TTP further said: “It's just the beginning, we have taken revenge for one (Mehsud), we have to take revenge for hundreds.”
“We carried out this attack on the Karachi airport and 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,” the TTP spokesman said.
Shahidullah Shahid moreover dismissed the Pakistani government's peace talks methodology as a “tool of war”.
Shahidullah Shahid said the attack was planned much earlier but had been postponed due to the peace talks.
The TTP spokesman in a statement issued to the media said that the attack was also carried out to avenge the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike.
“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.
Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for the army's air strikes in areas along the Afghan border where the insurgents are based.
Another three rocket launchers, five suicide jackets, 15 petrol bombs and five SMGs recovered from the airport.
Doctor Seemi Jamali of the JPMC said so far 18 bodies have been brought to the hospital.
Airport employees leave the Jinnah International Airport after militants attack in Karachi on June 9, 2014. — Photo by AFP
Chaudhry Nisar has summoned a report of the incident from IG Sindh Police.
The minister commended security forces on fighting terrorists during the crisis that enveloped the airport in Karachi.
Chaudhry Nisar condoled with family members of those killed in the terrorist attack.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan strongly condemned the attack on the airport.
Imran Khan said government's policy towards tackling terrorism has failed.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan said the attack on the airport was a matter of grave concern.
A man watches as smoke rises after militants launched an early morning assault at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on June 9, 2014. — Photo by AFP
An AFP reporter at the scene said gunshots could be heard inside the airport and that rangers and elite commandos were rushing inside.
“We have relaunched the operation and called in additional troops,” said Sibtain Rizvi, spokesman for the Rangers paramilitary force.
A military operation was relaunched at the airport as gunfire resumed several hours after the army announced the end of a militant siege that left 24 dead.
President Mamnoon commended the role of security forces during the operation against attackers.
President Mamnoon Hussain condemned the attack on the airport saying the cowardly action could not overpower the government's will to counter terrorism.
A search operation was conducted by the security forces in the early hours of Monday morning during which five sub-machine guns (SMGs), three suicide jackets, two rocket launchers and 12 petrol bombs were recovered.
“The militants appear to be Uzbek,” he said.
“Three militants blew themselves up and seven were killed by security forces,” Akhtar said in televised remarks.
Akhtar said the attackers were ethnic Uzbeks.
Director General of Sindh Rangers Maj-Gen Rizwan Akhtar addressing a press conference claimed that unidentified foreign militants appeared to be involved in the attack.
At least 23 people were reportedly killed in the incident, including security personnel.
Ten militants were also among the dead.
ISPR spokesman Asim Bajwa said the militants "were confined to two areas and eliminated."
Bajwa said weapons, live ammunition, including RPGs, were recovered from the militants.
Bajwa said that they were wearing large packs on their bodies.
He also said that Raheel Sharif "paid rich tribute to all shaheed and injured for their supreme sacrifice".
The ISPR spokesman said that Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif "congratulated participating troops for a well coordinated, successful operation eliminating all militants".
Some eight to 10 attackers were said to have engaged security forces in a gunbattle.
Earlier, Pakistan Army troops were called in to deal with the situation and troops from Malir Cantonment were dispatched, while police commandos and Karachi Rangers were assisting.
A huge explosion was heard over two hours into the attack. A second large explosion was heard near the airport workshop. A third massive explosion was heard a further 30-40 minutes in. Huge clouds of smoke continue to dominate the skyline.
Intermittent firing took place at the airport, while large plumes of smoke were seen over the cargo terminal.
One plane each of PIA and AirBlue, and a cargo plane of a foreign company were reported to have been damaged.
A hand grenade attack was also carried out on the Isphani Hanger.
Suicide bombers were reportedly part of the militant squad that has infiltrated the airport.
Staff was rescued by security personnel and moved to safer areas. Rescue teams were allowed in after being checked thoroughly. Passengers were evacuated and moved to a secure location.
Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif called DG Rangers Sindh and asked him to ensure the safety of passengers.
All flight operations at Jinnah Terminal were suspended and flights were diverted to other airports.
Pakistan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph Rob Crilly reported that he had spoken to MQM leader Farooq Sattar and stated that, "He sounds calm but understandably concerned about being stuck on plane filled with aviation fuel."
How they got in
The attackers were said to have forged fake ID cards to pose as ASF personnel and had managed to enter the area that way.
Broken glass and used gun magazines littered the engineering section where the first exchange of gunfire took place.
The militants carried out the attack from three different sides, officials said, while there were reports that two terrorists managed to get inside a plane.
Scenes of terror
Zahir Shah Sherazi contributed to reporting