Paramedic staff move an Airport Security Force (ASF) official, who was wounded in an attack at Jinnah International Airport, outside Jinnah hospital in Karachi June 9, 2014. Image Credit: REUTERS

Operations resume at Karachi airport

Monday 09 June, 02.16 pm

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said operations at the Karachi airport have been restored, reports Mohammad Ashraf, our correspondent in Karachi.

The operations were halted at midnight after the terrorist attacks and the national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines diverted the Karachi bound flights to other airports.

The CAA spokesman said that they were waiting for the clearance from security forces to resume flight operation and normal ground operation.

Smoke was still rising from the two cargo terminals which caught fire after the terrorists attacked them with rocket propelled grenades.

Karachi airport cleared of militants: paramilitary spokesman

Monday 09 June, 10.16 am

Karachi : Pakistani security forces Monday said they had cleared the Karachi airport of militants nearly 12 hours after the start of a siege that left at least 28 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 at 12.00 pm (0700 GMT)," paramilitary Rangers spokesman Sibtain Rizvi told reporters.

Pakistani Taliban claim responsibility for Karachi attack

Monday 09 June, 10.11 am

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan:  The Pakistani Taliban on Monday claimed responsibility for an attack on Karachi airport in revenge for their late leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November.

"We carried out the attack on Karachi airport to avenge the death of Hakimullah Mehsud," Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP, while dismissing the Pakistani government's recent offer of peace talks as a "tool of war".

He also promised more attacks in the future.

"Pakistan used peace talks as a tool of war, it killed hundreds of innocent tribal women and children. This is our first attack to avenge the death of Hakimullah Mehsud," he said.

"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, we have to take revenge for hundreds," he told AFP.

Ethnic Uzbeks in group that attacked Pakistan airport - paramilitary

Monday 09 June, 8.55 am

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's paramilitary force said on Monday that a group of foreign fighters including ethnic Uzbeks was involved in an attack on one of the country's biggest airports overnight.

"Three militants blew themselves up and seven were killed by security forces," Rizwan Akhtar, the regional head of the paramilitary Rangers, said in televised remarks. "The militants appear to be Uzbek."

Pakistani policemen move an injured colleague outside Karachi airport terminal after the militants' assault in Karachi late on June 8, 2014. (AFP)

Fresh gunfire at Karachi airport

Monday 09 June, 8.30 am

Pakistan's security forces said on Monday they have relaunched a military operation at Karachi airport as gunfire resumed several hours after they announced the end of a militant siege that left 28 dead.

"We have relaunched the operation and called in additional troops," said Sibtain Rizvi, spokesman for the Rangers paramilitary force, adding that one police officer had been injured in the firing.

An AFP reporter at the scene said gunshots could be heard inside the airport and that rangers and elite commandos were rushing inside.

All 10 militants killed and the bodies of 14 victims identified, say authorities

Heavily armed militants launched an assault on Pakistan’s busiest airport in the southern city of Karachi, leaving at least 24 dead, including 10 militants in a six-hour siege that the army quelled at dawn on Monday.

Smoke rises from the Karachi airport terminal after the militants' assault in Karachi late on June 8, 2014.

Explosions and gunfire rang out as the attackers, equipped with suicide vests, grenades and rocket launchers, battled security forces in one of the most brazen attacks in years in Pakistan’s biggest city.

Authorities said all 10 militants had been killed and that the bodies of 14 victims, including security personnel and four airport workers, had been identified at the city’s main hospital.

“Update: Area cleared. No damage to aircraft, fire visible in pics was not plane but a building, now extinguished. All vital assets intact,” military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said in a tweet.

The attack will raise fresh concerns about Pakistan’s shaky security situation, and questions about how militants were able to penetrate Jinnah International Airport, which serves one of the world’s biggest cities.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the assault, but it came as talks between Pakistan and the Taliban, which began earlier this year, hit an impasse.

Officials said the gunmen entered from two sides of the airport at around 11pm on Sunday, the terminal used for the hajj pilgrimage, and an engineering section close to an old terminal that is no longer in use.

An AFP reporter witnessed three huge blasts as suicide bombers detonated their explosives.

Militants, some dressed in army uniform, clashed with the airport’s security force who were backed by police, paramilitary squads and elite commandos.

Smoke was seen billowing from the airport as fires raged close to planes parked on the runway.

A senior intelligence official said it appeared the militants had aimed to hijack a plane that passengers were boarding at the main terminal, but that when they were repelled they went on the rampage.

“The passenger plane at Jinnah terminal was their target and when they failed to reach there they destroyed two private terminals in frustration,” he told AFP.

After the attack was quelled, a bomb disposal expert in full protective gear was seen walking from the site carrying a suicide vest and a bag full of hand grenades.

“Seven terrorists were killed by the security forces while three blew themselves up,” Rizwan Akhter, director-general of the paramilitary Rangers, told reporters.

‘I saw the terrorists firing’

Broken glass and spent gun magazines littered the engineering section where the first exchange of gunfire took place as smoke from grenade attacks began to die down.

“I heard fierce firing and then saw the terrorists firing at security forces... Thank God I am alive, this is very scary,” said eyewitness Sarmad Hussain, an employee of national carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

Syed Saim Rizvi, who was on board a plane on the runway, tweeted: “Huge blast!!!! I do not know what’s going on outside - heavy firing started again - full panic on board!”

The city’s Jinnah Hospital said that 14 dead bodies had been brought there, including eight airport security personnel, a ranger, a civil aviation official and four PIA staff.

Another 21 people were wounded, spokeswoman Seemi Jamali told AFP.

The assault forced the closure of the airport, but the military said it would be ready to resume services later in the day.

The latest trouble came with tensions already high over the arrest in Britain of the exiled leader of Pakistan’s MQM party, which dominates politics in Karachi, Pakistan’s economic centre and main port.

However, similar raids in the past have been claimed by Taliban militants who rose up against the Pakistani state in 2007 in an insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

In 2011, Taliban gunmen attacked the Mehran naval base, which lies close to the airport, destroying two US-made Orion aircraft and killing 10 personnel in a 17-hour siege.

The group also carried out a raid on Pakistan’s military headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in 2009, leaving 23 dead including 11 troops and three hostages.

The airport assault will cast attention on the government’s controversial decision to negotiate with the Taliban instead of using greater force to deal with them.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government began negotiations with the umbrella militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in February, with a ceasefire beginning March 1 but breaking down a month later.

Attack on Shiite pilgrims

As well as the Taliban threat, Pakistan is facing a rising tide of sectarian bloodshed mainly targeting minority Shiite Muslims.

In a separate attack in southwest Baluchistan province late Sunday, at least 23 people, including several Shiite pilgrims, were killed in a gun and suicide assault on the restive Pakistan-Iran border.

The pilgrims were targeted as they returned from a visit to Muslim sites in Iran and stopped for a meal in the Pakistani town of Taftan.

Provincial home secretary Akbar Durrani said four suicide bombers attacked two restaurants full of pilgrims.

One attacker was shot dead as he tried to enter one of the restaurants, while the other three managed to enter a second restaurant and blow themselves up.