Terrorists Attack Karachi Airport in Pakistan, Killing 23.
KARACHI | Pakistan | 9 June 2014 : : In a ferocious terrorist assault that stretched into Monday morning, suspected Islamist militants infiltrated Pakistan’s largest international airport in Karachi, waging an extended firefight against security forces that resulted in 23 deaths and shook the country’s already fragile sense of security.
Explosions and gunfire rang out across the airport through the night as police and security forces battled with attackers, and passengers waited anxiously in a nearby terminal and in airplanes stranded on the tarmac. Just before 5 a.m., after five hours of siege, the military reported that the last of 10 attackers had been killed.
The chief minister of Sindh Province, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, told reporters that in addition to the 10 attackers, 13 other people had died, including 10 members of the Airport Security Forces and a flight engineer with Pakistan International Airlines, the state airline. “They were well trained,” he said of the assailants. “Their plan was very well thought out.”
There was no claim of responsibility for the assault, which was the most ambitious of its kind in Pakistan since Islamist militants attacked a navy air base in central Karachi in 2011. Initial suspicions fell on the Pakistani Taliban and related Islamist groups that have become increasingly strong in the past two years in the city, a sprawling megalopolis of 20 million people and a major commercial hub.
Although elite commandos moved quickly to counter the assault, many Pakistanis expressed shock that militants could penetrate such a prominent target so thoroughly and raised questions about why the attack had not been prevented by the military’s powerful spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.
The attack began late Sunday night, when the gunmen made it past security checkpoints near the airport’s old terminal, which is mostly used for cargo or private flights for senior government officials and business leaders. Some news reports said the men wore identification saying they were members of the Airport Security Force.
Hurling grenades and unleashing automatic weapons fire, the attackers at least initially moved toward the nearby web of runways as they fought, according to news and witness reports.
News images showed a major fire blazing in the airport complex that filled the night sky with an orange glow and appeared to be near parked jets. But a senior spokesman for the Pakistani military, Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, denied news media reports that two planes had caught fire. He also denied reports that the gunmen had been trying to hijack an airliner.
All flights to Karachi were diverted to other airports. Television pictures showed ambulances racing from the airport, which is named after Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, ferrying casualties to the hospital.
Some of the attackers were wearing suicide vests, and at least one blew himself up when police officers approached, senior police officials told reporters at the scene.
Although the fighting took place away from the main terminal that is used by commercial airlines, some passengers were stranded on airplanes that had been about to take off when the assault started. Among them was Farooq Sattar, a senior leader with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party, which has dominated Karachi politics for almost three decades. Others posted updates on Twitter and other social media.
At one point, Syed Saim A. Rizvi, a Twitter user who said he was on a flight, reported that commandos from the army’s elite Special Services Group had taken control of his plane. Moments later, he reported a “huge blast” and heavy firing outside and said there was a “full panic” on the flight.
Two hours later, he said that the Pakistani military had safely evacuated all passengers from the plane. ( Courtesy : The New york Times )