Dozens killed in two Pakistani attacks

Associated Press — June 9, 2014

The Associated Press — June 9, 2014

The siege at Pakistan’s largest airport was declared over on Monday morning, with all 10 assailants reported killed.

An additional 13 people, many of them members of the airport security force, died in the attack, according to the Chief Minister of Sindh province, Qaim Ali Shah.

Earlier on Sunday night, the 10 gunmen who were disguised as police guards, stormed an airport terminal used for VIPs and cargo in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.

Meanwhile, suicide bombers in southwestern Pakistan killed 23 Shiite pilgrims returning from Iran in a separate incident, underscoring how fragile security is Pakistan.

The airport attack was still underway early Monday, although officials said all passengers had been evacuated. Heavy gunfire and at least two large explosions could be heard coming from the terminal at Jinnah International Airport as authorities scrambled to secure the area.

Dr. Seemi Jamali from Jinnah Hospital in Karachi said nine bodies had been brought so far to the hospital from the fighting. She said seven were from the Airport Security Force personnel, one was an employee of the Civil Aviation Authority and another was from the state-run Pakistan International Airlines.

Shaukat Jamal, a spokesman for the Airport Security Force, said the attack had caused a major fire at the airport. The military had been called in and that police were fighting the attackers, he said.

The attack happened at a terminal not generally used for commercial flights but for special VIP flights and for cargo.

“I was working at my office when I heard big blasts — several blasts — and then there were heavy gunshots,” Sarmad Hussain, a PIA employee, told The Associated Press after escaping the building. He said he and a colleague jumped out one of the windows to get away, and his colleague broke his leg.

When Hussain came out of the building, he said he saw smoke billowing from the terminal.

Jamal, the ASF official, said army commandos have confined the attackers to a maintenance area, and that they hadn’t been able to get onto the tarmac.
Jamal said the police and army commandos were still fighting with the attackers. He said he was not sure how many attackers there were nor whether any of them had been killed.

An official who spoke to journalists near the airport said at least some of the militants were wearing Airport Security Force uniforms and all were strapped with explosives. He said one of them tried to capture a vehicle used by the Civil Aviation Authority and when a guard shot at him, the explosives strapped to his body went off. The official said another attacker also blew up after being shot at by security forces.

He said he had seen the bodies of three attackers and that an additional three or four attackers were believed to be alive. The official described himself as being with one of the country’s intelligence agencies but declined to give his name.

The country’s military said in a statement that all the passengers had been evacuated and that three gunmen had been killed.

At least two domestic flights have been diverted and all flight operations had been suspended at the airport. A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said the airport would be closed until at least Monday night.

Karachi is Pakistan’s largest city and has been the site of frequent militant attacks in the past. It is the country’s economic heart and any militant activity targeting the airport likely would strike a heavy blow at foreign investment in the country.

In May 2011, militants waged an 18-hour siege at a naval base in Karachi, killing 10 people in an assault that deeply embarrassed its armed forces.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday night’s attack.

Pakistan’s government has been trying to negotiate a peace deal with local Taliban fighters and other militants mostly based in the northwest who have been waging war against the government. But the talks have had little success, raising fears of a backlash of attacks across the country.

In the suicide bombing, four bombers targeted Shiite pilgrims staying at a hotel in the town of Tuftan near the Iranian border, said Baluchistan Home Minister Mir Sarfraz Bugti. One bomber was killed by security officials traveling with the pilgrims, but the other three managed to get inside the hotel where they blew themselves up in an attack that also wounded 10 people, he said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether there was a connection between the airport assault and the Baluchistan attack.

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Pakistani Taliban claim responsibility for Karachi attack
AFP — June 9, 2014

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.

The initial assault at Jinnah International Airport in Pakistan’s southern port city began late Sunday and raged until dawn, when the military said that at least 24 people – including all 10 attackers – had been killed.

Equipped with suicide vests, grenades and rocket launchers, they had battled security forces in one of the most brazen attacks in years in Pakistan’s biggest city. Among the 14 victims were four airport workers.

Security forces later announced that the military operation had been relaunched after gunfire at the airport resumed.

Umar Media, the official media wing of the TTP, claimed on their Facebook page that just six militants had attacked the airport.

“The biggest reason for attacking Karachi airport is because it serves as the biggest air logistics centre supplying goods for the Crusaders’ war in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” a statement on their Facebook page claimed.

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