KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Thirty people were killed as security forces fought an all-night battle with Taliban gunmen who besieged Karachi airport as it emerged up to seven workers could still be trapped in cold storage facilities.
Ten militants were among the dead in the assault on Jinnah International Airport, officials said.
Families of airport workers blocked Karachi’s a main road demanding that authorities work towards freeing their relatives who were trapped in cold-storage facilities to escape the carnage.
“We are looking into this and according to the families some seven people were trapped inside the cold storage and were in contact with the families on cell phone,” said Abid Qaimkhani, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority.
The attack began just before midnight Sunday. At around dawn, the military said that all 10 of the attackers had been killed.
The militants then split into two groups, with one attacking a gate called Fokker to create a diversion and the other storming the cargo terminal, police said.
“They operated in pairs. That’s why their bodies were found lying in pairs,” said senior police officer Raja Umar Khattab, adding the militants had fired rockets at passenger planes but missed. “It seems there was some ill-planning on their part.”
Officials said no aircraft had been damaged.
Another security source said the militants were highly trained and carried large backpacks filled with dried fruit and water, suggesting they were in for a long siege.
Some of the gunmen were dressed in army uniform, as authorities put their mangled bodies, assault rifles, grenades and rocket launchers on show for the press. At least three detonated their suicide vests, witnesses said, and one severed head formed part of the grisly display.
According to initial report presented to the prime minister, the attackers involved in the attack were not from Pakistan. The report said that the killed terrorists were of ages between 20-25 years and appeared to be foreign nationals.
Paramilitary Rangers also said that the attackers were ethnic Uzbeks. “Three militants blew themselves up and seven were killed by security forces,” Rizwan Akhtar, DG Rangers, said in televised remarks. “The militants appear to be Uzbek.”
The initial findings suggested that the terrorists wanted to destroy all airplanes and paralyse entire air traffic operations but the ASF blocked their way towards the Jinnah Terminal.
DG ISPR Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said that final clearance of airport was completed and it was handed over to the Civil Aviation Authority and ASF at 2 pm on Monday.
The report said the normal flight operations resumed at 4:00pm on Monday.]
PIA spokesman Mashud Tajwar said no airline passengers were caught up in the incident.
The government has summoned an emergency meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security to discuss the future line of action after the attack on the airport.
The CAA has put all airports across Pakistan on high-alert after the attack.
The attack took place just three kilometres from the Mehran naval base, which the Taliban laid siege to three years ago, destroying two US-made Orion aircraft and killing 10 personnel in a 17-hour operation.
Peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban had been failing in recent months, already dampening hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement with the insurgents, who continue attacks against government and security targets.
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