PESHAWAR: After a gun attack on a PIA plane on Tuesday night that left a passenger dead and two crew members injured, flights resumed at Peshawar’s Bacha Khan International Airport on Wednesday.
However, an international airline announced that it was suspending its operations for the airport.
Meanwhile, police rounded up about 250 people during an intense cordon and search operation carried out in areas around the airport by police and other security agencies.
Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A-310, carrying 196 passengers and 10 crew members from Riyadh, came under fire while landing at the airport shortly before midnight.
The Dubai-based Emirates airline said it was suspending flights to Peshawar till further notice, while the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad said it had cancelled one flight on Wednesday and was assessing the security situation.
Read more: Emirates suspends Peshawar flight operations
But airport manager Tahir Sikandar said flights would continue as scheduled and he was not aware of suspension of operations by any airline. “I have been assured by all airlines that operations would continue as scheduled.”
A large number of Pakhtuns work in the Gulf and the Middle East, making Peshawar one of the most attractive destinations for airlines from the region.
PIA spokesman Tajwar Mashood said a bullet pierced through a window and fatally hit the woman from Nowshera who was sitting next to it. One of the injured crew members was discharged from hospital, while the other underwent an arm surgery and was in a stable condition in the Combined Military Hospital, the spokesman said.
He said the flight was in the landing mode, flying at a low altitude of 300-400 feet, when it was fired at. Some bullets hit the cover of the engine but the plane landed safely.
Editorial: Aviation security
A police official said a light submachine gun “appeared to have been used in the shooting, most likely a Kalashnikov. It has about the same range. Kalashnikov is a common weapon here.”
Immediately after the incident, police launched a search in Sulaimankhel, Badbher area, to the southwest of suburban Peshawar.
“We have rounded up over 250 people for questioning,” the police officer said.
It was not immediately clear if the shooting was an act of terrorism. “We are investigating all aspects.” A report of the incident was registered by Badbher police.
The airport is close to the tribal region and has seen rocket attacks in the past. It also came under a militant assault in December 2012.
Earlier this month: Cathay to stop Pakistan flight operations
The firing incident put yet another aircraft of the PIA out of service, at least for the time being, at a time when the airline is already facing a shortage of planes.
Security in and around the airport had been beefed up following the June 8 attack on the Karachi airport.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014