New Delhi: 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 24 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 12.00 pm,” paramilitary Rangers spokesman Sibtain Rizvi told reporters.
The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack. They describe it as revenge for the death of their leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November.
“This is our first attack to avenge the death of Hakimullah Mehsud,” said Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid to news agency AFP, while dismissing the Pakistani government’s recent offer of peace talks as a “tool of war”. “It’s just the beginning, we have taken revenge for one, we have to take revenge for hundreds,” he said.
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.
The gunmen were wearing military uniforms and shot their way into the airport. 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.
The assault on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan’s sprawling commercial hub of 18 million people, took place as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government tries to engage Taliban militants in talks to end years of fighting.
“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.
Officials said no aircraft had been damaged.
Peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban have failed in recent months, dampening hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement with the insurgency, which continues attacks against government and security targets