Gunmen kill 13 in Karachi airport
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) – Gunmen disguised as police guards attacked a terminal at Pakistan’s busiest airport today with machine guns and a rocket launcher during a five-hour siege that killed 13 people as explosions echoed into the night, officials said.
A separate suicide bombing in the country’s southwest killed 23 Shiite pilgrims returning from Iran, authorities said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, named after the founder of Pakistan, nor the suicide bombing in Baluchistan province. However, the attacks come as government-led peace talks with the local Taliban faction and other militants have floundered in recent weeks.
The airport attack began late today and continued on into the dawn hours of Monday in Karachi, a sprawling port city on Pakistan’s southern coast, although officials said all the passengers had been evacuated.
During the course of the attack, heavy gunfire and multiple explosions could be heard coming from the terminal, used for VIP flights and cargo, as militants and security forces battled for control. A major fire rose from the airport, illuminating the night sky in an orange glow as the silhouettes of jets could be seen.
The deadly operation was carried out by ten militants, said the Chief Minister of Sindh province, Qaim Ali Shah.
“They were well trained. Their plan was very well thought out,” he told reporters. He said they intended to destroy some of the aircraft and buildings but were not able to.
The spokesman for the Pakistani military, General Asim Bajwa, said on Twitter that no aircraft were damaged and that as a precautionary measure, security forces were sweeping the airport before operations would be returned to the Civil Aviation Authority and airport police.
At least some of the gunmen wore the uniforms of the Airport Security Force that protects the nation’s airports, said an official who briefed journalists near the airport. He said 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.