Karachi Airport: Delays expected for Etihad and Emirates as gunfire continues
09 June 2014, 12:43
Dubai – Following a terrorist attack at Pakistan’s Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, airlines in the United Arab Emirates will be facing ongoing delays.
Militants disguised as police guards armed with machine guns reportedly stormed the airport on Sunday night. There are 24 dead, including all of the militants, according to reports.
Gulfnews reports that Etihad and Emirates flights had been affected and that passengers en route to Pakistan were advised to check the airlines’ websites regarding updates on the closure of the airport.
An Emirates plane had actually been on the ground at Jinnah International when the attack took place. Passengers and crew disembarked with the assistance of the Pakistan military and were taken to a secure area of the terminal.
Sapa reports gunfire resumed at the airport early on Monday morning as Pakistan’s security forces relaunched a military operation.
An AFP reporter at the scene said shots could be heard again inside the airport - where explosions and fires had erupted during the night - and that dozens of trucks filled with soldiers were moving into the complex.
"We have relaunched the operation and called in additional troops," said Sibtain Rizvi, spokeperson for the Rangers paramilitary force, adding that one police officer had been injured in the new firing.
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 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 24 victims were four airport workers.
After the six-hour siege, military spokesperson Major General Asim Bajwa had declared in a tweet that the area was "cleared" with "all vital assets intact".
The assault will raise fresh concerns about Pakistan's shaky security situation, and questions about how militants were able to penetrate the airport, which serves one of the world's biggest cities.
Officials said the gunmen entered from two sides of the airport at around 23:00 on Sunday - the terminal used for the hajj pilgrimage, and an engineering section close to an old terminal that is no longer in use.
Attempted passenger plane hijacking
An AFP reporter witnessed three huge blasts as suicide bombers detonated their explosives.
Smoke was seen billowing from the airport as fires raged close to planes parked on the runway, while militants, some dressed in army uniform, clashed with the airport's security force who were backed by police, paramilitary squads and elite commandos.
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.
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 whats going on outside - heavy firing started again - full panic on board!"
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 holy Muslim sites in Iran and stopped for a meal in the Pakistani town of Taftan.
Taliban takes responsibility
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 spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid told AFP, while dismissing the Pakistani government's recent offer of peace talks as a "tool of war".
- Sapa - AFP