Dozens Killed As Militants Attack Pakistani Airport
June 09, 2014
by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal
The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack on the country's busiest airport that killed at least 28 people.
Militants armed with assault rifles, grenades, and rocket launchers stormed a terminal at Karachi international airport shortly before midnight on June 8.
Some of the attackers wore uniforms of security officers and suicide bomber vests.
Fresh violence reportedly broke out early on June 9, hours after authorities initially declared the airport cleared.
An army spokesman, Major General Asim Bajwa, said all 10 attackers were killed.
The dead also included eight airport security guards and four workers from Pakistan International Airlines.
Another 26 people were wounded.
In a phone call to RFE/RL, the Pakistani Taliban -- Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) -- said the attack was in retaliation for the death of TTP leader Hakimullah Masud in a U.S. drone strike last year.
The attack began when the militants stormed into a terminal used for cargo and VIP flights that was mostly empty at the time of the attack.
But the grenades started a blaze that lit up the night sky as commandos and army troops battled the attackers.
The military denied media reports that the militants destroyed two jet planes at the airport, saying that correspondents had seen aircraft backlit by the terminal fire.
Airport officials said some planes were temporarily grounded with passengers onboard. But they said none of those planes was attacked.
Syed Saim Rizvi, a passenger trapped aboard an Emirates Airlines plane that was grounded during the battle, said on Twitter that Pakistani commandos had boarded the aircraft.
Rizvi said passengers inside the plane were in a state of panic after hearing huge explosions nearby and the sound of heavy machine guns.
Authorities said later that those explosions were the sounds of the attackers' suicide vests exploding when they were shot by Pakistani troops.
It was not immediately clear whether there was a link between the attack on Karachi's airport and a simultaneous suicide attack by four militants in southwestern Pakistan who killed 23 Shi'ite Muslims who had just returned from a pilgrimage in Iran.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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