KARACHI: Taliban gunmen attacked a security post outside Karachi airport on Tuesday, a day after an all-night siege by the militants left 37 dead and extinguished a tentative peace process.
The latest assault on the airport raised further questions about the authorities’ ability to secure key facilities in the face of a resurgent enemy.
The attack on the security post targeted an entry point to an Airport Security Force (ASF) camp 500 metres from the airport’s main premises, and around a kilometre from the passenger terminal.
Police, paramilitary rangers and army all raced to the site but officials later reported they had not traded fire with the militants and there had been no casualties.
“Two people came towards the ASF (Airport Security Force) checkpost and started firing,” Colonel Tahir Ali, a spokesman for the force, told reporters. “Nobody has been killed or injured,” he added.
Army spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa confirmed the incident was over, but tweeted that three to four assailants were involved, while a senior official at the scene who wished to remain anonymous said the gunmen may have fled to a nearby shanty settlement.
“We are chasing them, we will get them, it’s not easy to hide here, there are no buildings, no population except for two small shanty towns nearby,” the official told AFP.
The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in response to air strikes in the tribal areas, and vowed further unrest.
“Today’s attack on ASF (Airport Security Force) in Karachi is in response to the bombardment on innocent people in Tirah Valley and other tribal areas,” spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said. “We will continue such attacks.”
“We accept responsibility for another successful attack against the government,” he told Reuters. “We are successfully achieving all our targets.”
Reflecting an atmosphere of nervousness, Karachi airport suspended all flights in and out of the sprawling city of 18 million for the second time in two days, although most flights were restored later.
Meanwhile tragic details came to light about the grisly deaths of seven workers who hid inside the airport’s cold-storage facility to escape Monday’s siege - but were later engulfed by flames.
Shahid Khan said his 32-year-old nephew Inayat’s last words were to his wife, whom he called at 11:25pm on Sunday night as the raid by 10 militants armed with guns, grenades and rocket launchers began.
His nephew said, “The attack is on our office, they are showering the office with rockets and bullets”. “That was the last contact and then the line got cut - but we did not know it would be forever,” he told AFP while sobbing. The workers’ burnt remains were retrieved on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah took notice of the attack and directed the law enforcement agencies to chase the terrorists.
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