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Air traffic resumes after 15 hours

December 16, 2012

PESHAWAR, Dec 16: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) opened Bacha Khan International Airport for normal operation on Sunday afternoon after the law-enforcement agencies declared that surrounding areas had been cleared from militants.

An official told Dawn that domestic and international flights had been resumed from the airport, which was closed for almost 15 hours after a group of militants mounted attack on the airport on Saturday evening.

He said that the airport, which also serves as airbase of the Pakistan Air Force, was declared safe after security  forces combed the entire area. “The airport and runway are now safe for all types of operations,” the official said.

The airport was closed after militants launched botched attempt to penetrate into the airbase where the PAF and the Army Aviation Wing had strategic assets. Officials claimed that 10 militants were killed in the counter operation.

Incoming flights were diverted to Lahore and Islamabad after militants launched attack.

One policeman and five civilians were killed and 47 others, including two constables, received injuries in the bomb and gun attack. Search operation inside the airbase and its surrounding areas continued through the night and day. Passengers stranded at the main terminal were evacuated late Saturday night.

The officials said that a PIA flight for Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), which was delayed due to the standoff, left for its destination on Sunday afternoon. They said that more incoming and outgoing flights would operate according to the schedule. A scheduled flight of international airline based in Saudi Arabia was likely to land in Peshawar late Sunday night, they said.

Sources said that international carriers which carried service from Middle East, mostly from United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, would continue flights for Peshawar according to their schedule.

Peshawar is the third busiest airport in the country after Karachi and Lahore and over 8,000 domestic and international flights operated in 2011.

A representative of Doha-based airline said that it was unlikely that the company would suspend its operation from Peshawar.

He hoped that other international companies would continue their flights for Peshawar. Meanwhile, security forces strengthened security at the airport and banned entry of private vehicles. Passengers travelling abroad from the airport are made to walk to the airport, while army and police personnel have been subjecting them to extensive body search.