At least 23 persons, including 10 terrorists, were killed when heavily armed militants attacked the Jinnah International Airport in Pakistan’s commercial hub Karachi even as fresh firing was heard early Monday, hours after security forces declared an end to the assault.Around 10 to 12 men armed with explosives and ammunition dressed in airport security personnel uniforms entered the Fokker building at the old airport terminal late last night, police said.
Pakistan’s military on Monday declared an end to an all-night offensive to quell a Taliban siege of Karachi airport that left 20 people including security personnel dead.
10 terrorists were killed in the joint operation by law enforcement agencies.
“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),” a spokesman for the paramilitary Rangers Sibtain Rizvi, told reporters after nearly 12 hours of fighting.
The attack at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi began just before midnight Sunday and raged until dawn, when the military said that all 10 attackers had been killed after they had stormed two areas equipped with suicide vests, grenades and rocket launchers.
But after authorities initially declared the area cleared, a reporter witnessed fresh gunfire break out inside the airport — where explosions and fires had erupted during the night — prompting security forces to relaunch the operation.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group said the attack was in revenge for its late leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November.
TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid also dismissed the Pakistani government´s recent offer of a new round of peace talks as a ruse, and promised more attacks to come.
“Pakistan used peace talks as a tool of war,” he told. “We have yet to take revenge for the deaths of hundreds of innocent tribal women and children in Pakistani air strikes.
“It´s just the beginning, we have taken revenge for one (Mehsud), we have to take revenge for hundreds.” Talks to end the TTP´s bloody seven-year insurgency in Pakistan have been underway since February, with little clear progress made so far.
The gun battle was over inside the old airport near the hangers and workshop as military and other security personnel tried to clear up the runaway and surrounding area from the terrorists.
Plumes of smoke and fire could be seen inside the old airport and a few loud explosions were also heard near the workshop and hanger area. A spokesman of the Inter Services Pubic Relations confirmed that army units had been called from the nearby Malir cantonment base and said so far three terrorists had been killed in the gun battle while one blew himself up.
Security forces had cleared up one side of the old airport after killing the terrorists but there was still resistance and heavy gunfire coming from another direction near a workshop, Sindh police spokesman said.
“They are 11 dead bodies inside right now including one police official and some ASF jawans but three terrorists have been killed while one blew himself up as we corned him,” the spokesman, Imran Shaukat told reporters.
He denied that the terrorists had succeeded in blowing up or damaging the aircraft on the runaway. “No aircraft has been hit or damaged although the terrorists are carrying RPG rockets. The explosion and fire is because some oil tankers caught fire on the runaway,” he said.
A spokesman for the paramilitary rangers also confirmed that four terrorists had been killed and said seven more were suspected to be hiding inside a hanger building. He said all passengers and airport staff had been moved to safe places and the aircrafts secured with security personnel securing them from terrorist attacks.
But a source in the Civil Aviation Authority said that the number of casualties could be high as several civilians had been killed or injured when the terrorists entered the airport terminal building.
All flight operations at Jinnah Terminal have been suspended and all routes to the airport have been sealed.
The attack came days after a peace process between the Tehreek-e-Taliban broke down and a ceasefire announced by the TTP was called off.
Since then than there has also been a major break in the TTP with the powerful Mehsud group announcing their separation from the militant outfit led by Maulana Fazlullah. The Mehsud group commanders had warned of resuming attacks against the government and security personnel and installations.
Immediately after the daring attack all flight operations were suspended from the Jinnah international airport with flights not taking off and those scheduled to land in Karachi were diverted to Nawabshah and Quetta or turned back to their original destinations.
Police sources said that the heavily armed terrorists dressed in ASF uniforms forced their way into the old terminal building from two gates and caught the security personnel on duty unaware.
Security forces including Military troops, ASF and police commandos surrounded a hanger and workshop near the old terminal where the terrorists took control after entering the runaway from the old terminal building.