Heavily armed militants launched an assault on Pakistan's busiest Karachi airport, leaving at least 24 dead including 10 militants in a six-hour siege that army commandos quelled on Monday morning.
Explosions and gunfire rang out as the attackers, equipped with suicide vests, grenades and rocket launchers, battled security forces in one of the most brazen attacks in years in Pakistan's biggest city.
Authorities said all 10 militants had been killed; seven were killed in the encounter while three killed themselves. Officials described them as Uzbeks but faces of dead militants were not shown. Director General Rangers Sindh Major General Rizvan Akhtar told a press conference in Karachi of all terrorists were Uzbeks.
Officials said the gunmen entered from two sides of the airport at around 11:00 pm on Sunday -- the terminal used for the hajj pilgrimage, and an engineering section close to an old terminal that is no longer in use.
A senior 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.
The raid involved heavily armed attackers disguised as security personnel, who hurled hand grenades and fired automatic weapons as they targeted the airport's cargo terminal.
The army said it had regained control of the airport around dawn after a six-hour siege, but explosions and shooting could still be heard on Monday morning and Pakistani troops re-launched their operation.
Taliban take responsibility
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for an assault on Karachi airport, according to Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV. A spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) told Al Jazeera that the attack, which began after midnight on Sunday, was in retaliation for the treatment of TTP prisoners and for air raids in North Waziristan. Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said the TTP's Shahidullah Shahed sent a text message confirming responsibility and motive. "The Taliban said we have already declared war, so there will be more strikes in the coming days," he said.
According the AFP, the Karachi airport attack was in revenge for Taliban's late leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November 2013. "We carried out the attack on Karachi airport to avenge the death of Hakimullah Mehsud," Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP, while dismissing the Pakistani government's recent offer of peace talks as a "tool of war".
The chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Hafiz Saeed tweeted on Monday saying that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new security team is behind the militant attack on Karachi airport.
In a series of tweets, Saeed claimed that the nation knew who the 'real enemy' was and called on the Pakistani government to 'show some spine' and end relations with India.
According Dunya TV a Rangers official has confirmed that Indian-made ammunition has been recovered from dead militants. Meanwhile several made-in-India injections "Factor-8" were recovered during a search operation at the Karachi airport, The Nation quoted officials as saying. Indian army uses Factor-8 injections in frontline combats and these injections are not available in markets. Officials said that these injections are believed to be used for stopping bleeding.
However, retired Lt. General Talat Masoud downplayed the Indian factor in the Karachi airport attack. He said that possession of Indian arms does not mean that they were supplied by India. He added that the Indian arms can be purchased from anywhere. The question is did India supply it?
General Masoud said that there is no point in peace talks with Taliban after they claimed responsibility for the Karachi attack.